“I think my mother is block captain,” one child finally said, and with that I was invited into the Marrow household for lunch.
Jocelyn Marrow is a retired Philadelphia School Board member. About three years ago, she moved to the 1700 block of North 16th Street. She has four children, a dog and enjoys tending to her backyard garden. As of three months ago, she became the block captain of her street.
The block captain tradition in Philadelphia is nearly a half-century old. The 6,500 block captains across the city have plenty to oversee, especially around Main Campus.
“The big battle is this trash dump heap that’s in the middle of the block,” Marrow said.
She has been fighting with her landlords and Columbus Property, the nonprofit housing developer which, according to its website, specializes in housing for those with disabilities.
She added that Temple owns much of property around her. From those three groups, the response she has received is minimal.
The trash issue is only one of the problems Marrow and other block captains are dealing with. They also want to foster a more inviting community.
She created a committee on her block with four other people. Their first work of business was creating a “back-to-school extravaganza” for the children on her block. They are hoping to give them school supplies, arts and crafts and snacks. She hopes that Temple students will support the event.
Marrow said she thinks Temple students should be more concerned about the blocks they live on.
“I don’t understand how you’re going to school every day, you’re working every day just to secure your home, why aren’t you outside fighting for it?” she said.
How many Temple students have met their block captains, or even know that block captains exist? On Montgomery Avenue, it took some time for me to find someone who knew Marrow – and that someone was her own daughter.
Eileen Bradley, project coordinator for Temple Police, said Temple organizations are working on building its relationship with the community. She cited the Adopt-A-Block program and “Welcome Wagon” meetings, two ways for Temple students to get involved on their blocks.
But according to the North Philadelphia Action Community Committee, residents have dealt with the same problem for eight years – a lack of interest and respect from Temple students living on their blocks.
Milton Pollard, the Community Leader for the NPACC, led a Community and Stakeholders meeting on Sept. 16.
As the topic moved into Temple’s off-campus living, the conference room boomed with voices.
It was a contrast from the former tone of the room. By the expressions and actions, it was obvious that the people of the community had grown tiresome of the lack of change.
Excessive partying and lack of control by police were major concerns, according to community members at the meeting.
“Temple Police doesn’t have control over the students,” Pollard said.
A major concern was the ambiguity of Temple’s “Good Neighbor Policy.”
Where is it being enforced? The vagueness of this policy allows Temple police to argue when offenses occur outside their jurisdiction, even though it appears to apply to just about anywhere a Temple student lives.
Although there is certainly some outreach happening, it is not meeting everyone in the widespread community. With the recent extension of Temple Police patrol zones, Temple organizations should also extend their volunteer regions to meet the growing population of Temple students moving off campus.
“This is a community. We want our community to stay intact,” Marrow said.
Emily Scott can be reach at firstname.lastname@example.org and on twitter @emilyscott315