The issue of choosing a neighborhood based on perceived safety has been on my heart so much I wrote about it for WORLDMag.com today. Is safety a valid concern for a Christian family when seeking housing options? I’m struggling with it. What say you?
As my family is preparing for our upcoming move this summer, we spent the better part of this spring break week checking out our new locale, getting a feel for the city, and looking at some housing possibilities. As our new situation coincides with helping to plant a church right in the heart of Oklahoma City, and my husband’s job will take him 30 minutes north of town half of the week and 30 minutes south the other half, it seemed ideal for us to find a house right in the middle.
We drove all over town armed with a list of addresses, a charged-up GPS, and a full tank of hope. Everything we found fell in one of two major categories: way out of our price range or way beyond our handyman capabilities (which are basically limited to paint and my dad’s phone number).
While there were several homes that fit our budget, they were either really tiny or really run down. By the end of Monday, we walked away with three possibilities-all within our price range-but all in what some might consider semi-scary neighborhoods.
Tuesday was a day filled with a fair amount of stress over that. I admit to feeling a lot of tension over whether or not this should be a concern for us. I admit to placing safety pretty high on my list of housing ideals. And I admit to not knowing if that’s really OK or not.
I’ve had Derek Webb’s song “Rich Young Ruler” stuck in my head all week and believe me, I’m thinking about it a lot. Here’s an excerpt:
Poverty is so hard to see
When it’s only on your TV
Or 20 miles across town
Where we’re all living so good
We moved out of Jesus’ neighborhood
Where he’s hungry and not feeling so good
From going through our trash
He says, “More than just your cash and coin
I want your time I want your voice
I want the things you just can’t give me.”
In the midst of wrestling with all of this, we received another housing lead from a friend. This house is still in the city, though at the very north edge of it. Of all the things on our “ideal” list, it has about 95 percent of them and was listed at the same price to the dollar that we are hoping to sell our home for in St. Louis. And the neighborhood feels safe (we drove past two different police cars parked in driveways, which was somewhat comforting to me).
I love the house, but I’m struggling to figure out if that’s OK. Is it any less godly to live in a place where you aren’t afraid to let your kids ride their bikes on your street? If you’re helping to plant a church somewhere downtown, is it acceptable to live 12 minutes north? Does God call people to the suburbs as well?