A diversifying hamlet and a problem…life in BGIM’s hood

When I landed in Maine a decade ago, the plan had been to live in Portland, Maine’s largest city but fate intervened and I landed a job immediately that was in a town just south of Portland. Seeing as how we were in a temporary place and I didn’t know how to drive we decided to just move to the town where my job was located…granted this isn’t technically a town, by Maine standards it’s a city. However with a population under 20,000 it’s a town in my mind. Shit back home this town would barely even be a neighborhood.

Now this little town was very white when we first moved here back in 2002, I am talking I could go days and not see another person of color. Note I did not say another Black person, I said another person of color. Pretty much in the early years, we made a lot of trips to Portland so I could hit Starbucks (we didn’t have one of those either when we first arrived here) and so I could see people of color. I can’t lie, the first couple of years here were rough, and there were days I was pretty certain I was just going to lose what mind I had.

In 2004, after my Mom’s passing when it became clear that for better or worse this was going to be home, we bought a house. House hunting was fun; the real estate boom was in full effect and even in a state like Maine that meant housing prices were insane. In the end we settled on a nice old (literal old) Victorian smack in town…what that means is I live near the downtown center. I am in the part of town that is pretty walkable and hey, we even have those fancy things called sidewalks. In town houses are traditionally older and on smaller lots compared to houses more out in the country that tend to come with acres, being us we figured a house on 2 acres was a disaster. Fuck, a house on a quarter acre is a disaster as you still have to maintain that land.

Our house is on a block with only 4 other houses and an apartment complex, over the years there were pretty much no kids on the block and it was pretty quiet. Yet change has come. Sadly due to the real estate downturn, one of my neighbors lost their property to foreclosure some months ago. The building had sat vacant for a while and neighbors took turns making sure the property was taken care of, well the place was bought by a guy who doesn’t live in it and now we have new neighbors. Loud, rude neighbors who like to leave their dog in the yard all day. Mind you they have no fence and just leave poor Fido tied to a rope, maybe Fido isn’t their best friend.  These same neighbors also have a lot of traffic…not that means anything.  Times are a changing indeed!

However the real change is that down at the apartment complex at the end of the block, for the first time in my 8 years here we have kiddos on the block. Lots of kiddos and damn it…they aren’t white! We have Iraqi neighbors, we can’t tell if they are all one family or multiple families since my attempts to speak with the moms haven’t gone too well. The kiddos are great except one problem, they play in the street, they leave toys in the street and they wander all over people’s property in ways that frankly aren’t safe. My own kiddo has befriended a few of the new kids on the block but they are a little younger than her so my attempts at self-direction aren’t too good.


I am overjoyed to see diversity in my hamlet; I even have several Black neighbors a block over, so trust me when I say this little town is diversifying. However my concern is safety, frankly the Iraqi kids some as young as 2-3 are outside riding trikes in the street with no adult present, as a neighbor and I commiserated, we are all looking out for the kiddos because it’s the right thing to do but frustrating as fuck since no one can talk to the parents. Sadly social services in my town is nil, instead most folks in my town if they need assistance end up in the town I work in and generally their path leads them to professional BGIM.

I am trying to approach the safety of the kids as a neighbor and not as a professional; the thing is as I observed this afternoon even when the adults are present there seems to be a lack of understanding about respecting property lines. Houses in our area tend not to have fences instead neighbors and subsequently kids know to stay on their property or only going on someone’s property if you have asked permission. I admit, I am known for telling people to get off my property, not in a nasty way but I admit Chicago me thinks if something happens to you on my property I am not trying to get sued.

Side view of BGIM's crib...note no fencing!

Anyhoo, dear readers I am looking for some input, I need ideas on how to deal with the kids in the street and kids just wandering with no adult supervision. I don’t think the kids are neglected in any way, I think what is going on is a cultural difference yet as a friend of mine recently narrowly avoiding hitting one of the kiddos as she left my driveway, I am thinking something must be done.

Note: There are no Arabic translators available in my county and most of the agencies I partner with when I am in professional BGIM mode have no resources to get one.



6 thoughts on “A diversifying hamlet and a problem…life in BGIM’s hood”

  1. I had the same problem up until I recently left the West End. It was so frustrating because their were children EVERYWHERE at the end of my block. I never understood why such small children were allowed out unsupervised, or why said children didn’t seem to have enough common sense to look both ways, get out of the road when a car is coming, or what have you. but like you said, maybe it all comes down to cultural differences. But you would think, regardless of where you come from, you would know that letting your children play in the middle of the road IN THE CITY is not the brightest of ideas. I think diversity is important and respecting other peoples cultures and habits is important, but i think the safety of a child trumps those things.

  2. I forgot to mention, when I wanted to talk to the grownups, I had the best luck with the children as translators, especially the teens.

  3. Steve made me think: any professional connections with colleagues from Lewiston? Some cultural similarities with both newcomer and local populations, and I think there must be some wisdom gained up there, neighbor by neighbor.

  4. Property lines are a tough one. Even with folks who’ve lived around all their lives, a certain slackness seems to prevail so …

    I believe Heather’s on to something, that training by example helps with the children and, believe it or not, being a person who is different, (you of color, me with disability) we garner a bit more respect than the general (sorry) run-of-the-mill white looking person — we garner that respect if we gain the confidence of our neighbors.

    Summer is coming, more folks will be spending time outside and various types of conversations can take place with the assistance of fun and something to share I believe a gradual blending can take place. In Lewiston, when the Somalis came, there were (and probably still are) similar issues and folks worked their way through them by example, block parties, and sometimes, unfortunately, by argument. Argument and snark are certainly Not advisable… (but after 28 years here on the Farm I’d have to say that snark was the method of last resort with the obstinate trespassers).

  5. Maybe using an online translator, like Google Translate, to write a few sentences & take them a print out? Also it should introduce you and see if you can invite them for coffee or something.

  6. I have no good advice. All I did was when I noticed things like discarded toys in the street or unsafe behavior, I’d just describe what I was doing if the children were in earshot. Like, “I’m going to move this bike out of the road so it doesn’t get broken and it keeps the drivers’ safe.” Or, “In my family, we stop at the edge of the street *like this* and look to see if cars are coming *like this.*”

    That kind of thing. Several of the kiddos picked up on my regularly picking up litter and would walk over to the dumpster with their trash. That was pretty cool.

    Anyway, the grass can be greener over there, huh. 😉

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