For six blocks in the 5th Council District of Philadelphia, the streets and sidewalks near Temple are relatively spotless. An occasional flyer lies alone on the sidewalk, but the campus is kept in pristine shape.
Just north of campus, trash blows like tumbleweeds across sidewalks. Styrofoam cups lie smashed into the cement, while plastic bags and McDonald’s wrappers litter the street.
An older woman wearing glasses and holding a cane sits on the wall outside of a drugstore, waiting patiently for her ride to arrive. After living in Philadelphia for 55 years, she said when she first arrived, there were sanitation trucks cleaning the streets two or three times a day.
The woman, who lives on Germantown Avenue, partly blames the formation of malls, which forced local shoe and clothing stores out of the North Philly area and into the suburbs, leaving her area partly forgotten.
She said she is upset and disappointed to see the descent of somewhere she spent most of her life.
“Oh yes,” she said closing her eyes, “but when you’re my age, where else do you go?”
Not everyone remembers the city when sanitation trucks collected trash on the streets. A man who lives on West Silver Street said the trash-filled lots next to his house have been that way since he moved to his neighborhood in 1991.
Piles of trash are more overgrown than weeds in unkempt lots near residences. Beside the man’s house, an abandoned shopping cart with a broken wheel is surrounded by soda cans, newspapers and empty cigarette cartons.
“I’ve cleaned [the lot] up twice before,” the homeowner said. “It just goes back to the way it was. That’s how it is around here.”
A vacant lot near the Volunteers of America building at 2601 N. Broad St. is filled with trash and piles of dirty clothes.
A man who relocated to Philadelphia four years ago from Baltimore places the blame on the maintenance staff at a building that houses tenants, but the responsibility of the land remains a mystery.
Gale Thompson, manager of the Ingerman Group, said the area surrounding her office accumulates trash, despite efforts to keep sidewalks and lots clean.
With no one sure which area belongs to whom, it is difficult to pinpoint who is responsible for the trash overflow.
“I used to send maintenance people out there,” Thompson said. “Last year we tried to get the area blocked off, but people just dump trash there anyway.”
According to the city’s Web site, in April 2008, volunteers gathered 2.56 million pounds of trash during Philly Spring Cleanup. As part of the Keep Philadelphia Beautiful initiative, approximately $19.3 million will be spent on developing more green space in the city.
Some students say the sanitation efforts in the city are not being addressed by the proper officials.
“[The city] neglects the rest of the community because I don’t think they care,” said Christeen Vilbrun, a junior journalism major.
Vilbrun said the city cleans tourist areas, so visitors will return.
“The area in [North Philadelphia] has a lot of the people who have hard lives,” she said. “They don’t have the resources and money to do much for themselves, and the city doesn’t care as much to help them either.”
The city officials responsible for maintaining the upkeep of areas surrounding Temple remain unknown.
“Personally, I wouldn’t take the time to clean up the trashy lots, but I would never add my own trash to it,” said Cindy McCready, an undeclared sophomore.
McCready is a Norris Street resident and Philadelphia native. She said some of her neighbors on the surrounding blocks “just don’t care” and litter constantly.
Vilbrun said it is unfair that Temple’s maintenance staff works so diligently to keep the campus clean, but ignores the communities that exist only few blocks away.
“I know there are some organizations that put together community service efforts, but I think that we should do it more often so that it can stay clean,” Vilbrun said. “It is our community and we’re living here too. We should care about where we’re living.”
Though trash remains on some streets, students often add to the litter.
Vilbrun admitted she is sometimes one of those students.
“I try not to,” she said, “but we’re in Philadelphia and it’s already so dirty. I figure how much more will a gum wrapper hurt?”
Ashley Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.