50 Wards in 50 Weekdays: 20th Ward’s Arnetta Featherstone says she lives in the best neighborhood around—except in the summer

June 19, 2012

(WBEZ/Sam Hudzik)
Arnetta Featherstone, a retired postal employee, walks in the Washington Park neighborhood to her niece's house.

Updated at 4:35 p.m. with name correction

When I ask Arnetta Featherstone to describe her neighborhood, Washington Park, she takes that to mean, how’s the crime?

 

“I haven’t had any altercations as far as being robbed. My apartment’s never been broked in,” she says. "People I know with vehicles have never been broken in. I have people come in the neighborhood that was non-black people like Hispanics and white people and stay for hours and they vehicle wasn’t never vandalized. Overall, to me it’s a pretty decent neighborhood."

I wasn’t asking about crime – not specifically anyway. But Featherstone is focused on the subject, even though she says it hasn’t touched her.

“Things happen in the neighborhood, but it has nothing happened to affect my family in the neighborhood,” Featherstone says. “Although, a lot of people say we’re on the low end and everything, we have crime, but...the bulk of the crime that we have is during the warmer months when more people out. But the spring, the winter and the fall of the year, this is the best neighborhood around.”

She moved to her current apartment in November 2007, but has lived in “basically the same area” for all of her 55 – almost 56 – years, she says.

 

“The neighborhood does have a lot of available stores," Featherstone says. "And everything – if you just need to get like cigarettes or get something to drink, alcohol. If you need...basic necessities like a loaf of bread or something, we have stores and things that’s, like, basically walking distance. We’ve got the gas station on 55th that’s 24 hours. A lot of neighborhoods don’t have a 24-hour store, and that makes a big difference, too.”

The round-the-clock retail convenience was helpful for Featherstone, as she worked some early morning and late night shifts for the U.S. Postal Service. She retired in 2008 after 27 ½ years on the job, working behind the scenes, processing mail dropped in sidewalk post boxes.

One thing that bothers her about the city these days: lack of job opportunities for young people.

 

“You have so many young people on the street – they don’t go to school, they don’t have nothing to do, they’re trying to sell drugs to make ends meet. Because they don’t have no programs available to them. And a lot of the schools is doing stuff basically that scares students from going to school. They making it harder on the students that’s in school – especially in high school.”

Some security procedures at those schools are over-zealous, Featherstone says. And she says the city needs to do a better job providing job training and after-school programs, though she does not seem to have much faith in its relatively new mayor.

 

“In my opinion...you don’t take people's jobs that voted you in. See, [Rahm Emanuel] came in...and the main thing he did I did not like, he cut people's jobs. He took people's jobs that worked in the library and a couple of more places and stuff. You don’t come in cutting people's jobs. You try to find a way to save people's jobs.”

With that, Featherstone continues on her way. She’s walking down the street to her niece’s house.