Tips on Living in a Bad Neighborhood

I live in an apartment building near a busy road. You can’t hear the traffic as much as the human riffraff that comes from being near such a busy road and public transportation in a bad neighborhood.

Our building is also just a couple of meters from another building.

Both buildings have really, really awful tenants. Other than the guy to our left who doesn’t ever come home, I’d say we’re the best tenants in both buildings combined. And he only wins because he’s never there, and how can you be a bad tenant if you are never there?

At any given time, we have the toddler crying a tortured cry from the other building (it’s hot out, so the windows are open and we can hear everything), the drug addicts upstairs stomping, pacing, or fighting (depending on their mood), the teenager across the hall knocking on the drug dealer’s door next door to us asking for some drugs, the deadbeat dad screaming at his child (named Angel), the young men outside playing rap music and smoking (and discussing how they can't afford prostitutes), the lady upstairs getting in a verbal yelling match with the lady two doors down about how close they were parked, and the yappy dog in the building next to us whose owners lock him alone on the deck.

I didn’t say we lived in a nice building! Even so, the rent is cheap and it’s in a convenient location and my safety isn’t threatened so we tolerate it.

I didn’t think I could ever tolerate living in such a tumultuous environment day in and day out, but here’s how we managed and will continue to manage without going crazy and also staying safe:

Lock Your Doors

I wouldn’t say my physical safety is threatened by living in such an apartment, but I do get a little freaked out at the thought of one of my seedy neighbors breaking into the apartment and stealing stuff. Alternatively, being so high that they think it's their house and passing out in our bed.

So we lock our doors. All the time, no matter what. We do double locks when we’re out, and the sliding door to the deck has a very complex 4x locking system that the boyfriend devised that I can hardly even work.

This lesson was learned after just having gotten home from grocery shopping and not locking the door behind us when we got in. Our neighbors that dumpster dive in the parkade “accidently” walked into our apartment.

Earplugs in a bad neighborhood

We really wouldn’t be able to sleep at night were it not for earplugs. We get the little ones and use them almost every night.

We’re not worried about anybody breaking in without us knowing because they block out just the right amount of sound; if the dogs barked, we would hear it.

Keep the Light On When You’re Not Home

I actually really hate doing this because it’s so environmentally unfriendly, but I always try to either leave the radio on or the light on when we’re not home during the evening. If we go out and won’t get back for a few hours, I feel much better because I know very few people would risk it if they didn’t know whether somebody is home or not.

Know Thy Neighbor

I think it’s good to learn what makes your neighbours tick so that if they start up with something, you can nip it in the bud right away.

When my neighbor upstairs gets high, I can always tell that I’m going to have to call the cops later if I hear him yell “shut up” to his girlfriend. It’s never happened where he’s calmed down after that; usually, it escalates into threats of throwing each other off the balcony, the angry throwing of what sounds like very, very heavy objects, and screaming at each other. As soon as I hear him raise his voice, I call or text the property manager and she goes over there to remind them that it’s not appropriate behaviour. It usually saves us from a sleepless night or a visit from the cops.

Don’t Be Afraid to Report

The neighbor across the ally in the building next to us with the dog in our bad neighborhood? Yeah, he’s just downright neglectful. He’ll leave it outside in 30 degree whether all day on the balcony. The dog is 10 pounds soaking wet, and it’s anxious and whining and scared. At first I didn’t want to report him to the SPCA because I didn’t want him to find out who did it – people like that can be dangerous – but finally I had enough of the obvious neglect that was going on and emailed the SPCA from an anonymous email address.

Keep in mind that it’s not just you that is losing sleep – if there are big fights going on upstairs that sound like somebody’s safety is being threatened, call the cops. If something doesn’t sound right about a child’s cry, call CPS. They’ll check it out and if there is nothing to worry about, then at least you can sleep knowing that you did something.

Have you ever lived in a bad neighborhood? How did you cope?


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27 thoughts on “Tips on Living in a Bad Neighborhood

  1. Know they homeless people, too! When I lived in an awful neighborhood in grad school, we actually had a resident homeless guy, Omar, who knew everyone in a multi-block radius. He would sleep on porches and mooch beer off of people, but he always knew who belonged and who didn't. A good thing to have considering "the projects" were just a few blocks away and there were some nights we heard gunshots coming from there.

  2. I've always gone out of my way to live in good neighbourhoods, often paying a few hundred more in rent to do so. I come from the country, so when I moved to the city I was pretty skittish, it was worth it to live in a good building, in a good part of town. Now that I'm back in the country, I've gotten to know my neighbours pretty well and I live in a community where if a strange car parks in my driveway when there's no one home, I'm likely to get a call about it. Unfortunately, though, break ins are very common in the country because no one locks their doors, we're probably the only ones in our area that do, and that's an old city habit.

  3. Wow! That's some neighborhood. That makes the first place my wife and I lived in seem tame. We lived in a duplex, that come to find out was a brothel on one side and drug house on the other. We had been told that there had been numerous "busts" at our duplex the year before we moved in. From time to time we would get "visitors" who were not aware that the brothel was no longer around. Suffice it to say, we got out of there as soon as possible. We'd always have the doors locked and had several times we had to call the cops. Definitely glad it's over. 🙂

  4. Wow...great tips, however these are things we do regardless. Except for the ear plugs of course...that sounds miserable. I'd be worried they'd get lodged into my ear or something. haha...probably a ridiculous thought.

    We keep our doors locked and occasionally leave lights on if we're away. We don't live in a bad neighborhood by any stretch of the imagination. I think that's just the world that we live in today.

  5. Veronica @ Pelican on Money

    Geez that sounds a little scary. I lived in my fair share of terrible and dangerous neighborhoods. The place I grew up had thugs around the neighborhood who weren't afraid of cops. On one occasion the "boss" thug beat up a cop and it was really hard to go outside without worrying for my life. Another place I lived had awful drug-dealing neighbors, whom cops couldn't seem to bust for some time. Eventually they did because "someone" tipped them off. Yeeeeah, I'm not sure who would have done that or how they would have known... geee. I guess my best way of dealing with dangers was to just report them anonymously. When the cops asked me over the phone where I'm calling from I would always pick some place several streets over 🙂

  6. Justin @ The Family Finances

    Sounds like quite the place! Thankfully our neighborhood is nowhere near that. We have an abandoned house on one side, great neighbors on the other, a poor family that fights all the time across the street, and a rental house next to them with people coming and going at all hours of the night. We don't particularly like where we live, but it could definitely be worse.

  7. Our neighbourhood is pretty tame! The worst that happens is usually the neighbour's cat coming around and terrorizing my pathetic cat.

  8. People who neglect their pets should really think twice about the responsibilities before becoming a pet owner. I've lived in poor neighbourhoods before but luckily it wasn't for very long. Keeping the lights on is a pretty good idea to stave off burglars. Sometimes I like to keep the television on instead lol, but you're right, it's not very green.

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    1. Post author

      I don't own my apartment so I wouldn't call it my home. It's just a temporary place to land until we buy. I have a weird phobia against spending a lot to live in a rented apartment, so the cheap rent is worth it for me.

  10. A couple years ago I lived in a really bad neighborhood in a duplex with a few other roommates. I had to call 911 for the first time in my life because the neighbor got stabbed by his cousin (this was after they got done practicing rapping). You can't make this stuff up.

  11. Wow, Daisy! I thought my hood was tough because I recently received a "courtesy notice" from a Neighborhood Preservationist about a teeny tiny spot on the top of my house...from where a TREE FELL ON MY HOUSE! You would think my neighbors would be understanding of that, but no! Someone called on us horrible people as soon as they could. I've only ever lived in good neighborhoods, but my neighbors recently made me feel like we don't belong with *that* rude note. 🙁

    1. Maddie

      Hi there! The same thing someone did to us. We spent over $700 replacing the old fence and someone called code enforcement and they made us take it down because it was 6 ft. high. I never felt so angry in my entire life. We had saved money for the fence and that is what we end up getting.

  12. Wow that sounds pretty bad. I'm not sure I could take that. I lived on a busy road in my last place and that alone was too much. And I always lock my door, even in my good neighborhood. Is there any chance you can move? Just to live in more peaceful surroundings?

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  14. I have to wear ear plugs at night too, but that's because my husband is a loud breather 🙂 When we were newlyweds, we lived in a decidedly "working class" (yes, that's a euphemism) neighborhood - the guy who lived in the apartment below us sold drugs. Luckily, my husband played football for the nearby university, and so I had lots of big guys coming in and out of our place at all time - I think it gave the message "don't mess with this apartment" to our neighbors!!

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  16. Great tips. Saving a few hundred dollars a month and seeing all sides of North America is the way to go 🙂

    I grew up in a neighbourhood that has a reputation of being dangerous - and it is, but it's not as bad as people make it. I guess I got used to it or something. Just be nice to your neighbours but assertive when need be.

    High/drunk/high & drunk/tweaking people will come up to you, but as long as you seem harmless, courteous, and unafraid, they will be harmless to you too. Some of them are just lonely have very interesting stories/hallucinations their willing to share with you.

    I guess I'm not that great of a samaritan if I'm leaving drug dealers alone...but I do have my phone in handy for emergency life/death purposes. I've called 9/11 more times than I've wanted.

  17. Depending on what mood I'm in, I'll say I live in the ghetto, but I guess I should consider myself lucky where I live. Its quite a safe area. The building itself is quite old, but the property managers have spruced it up a bit. I lived in my apt for a year without a door number. I had to make one on my computer and tape it to my door initially. Ironically enough, a couple of streets over is the upper middle class neighbourhood, so I'll see people driving their Benz or BMW through the area, but I have never seen any of them park at my building. Ha.

    The major reason I want to move to a different neighbourhood is really the noise. There are a TON of kids living in my apt and are skateboarding, playing all over the parking lot so I have to maneuver my way carefully to my parking spot.

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  21. disillusioned

    When you do have to call the police you do not have to give them information about who you are or where you live although they will try to make you give that "voluntary disclosure" and make you feel you legally have to but you don't. It is so even on the street. Ask them if you are being detained as this is what that is, requiring you to give information. You don't have to. Especially if your neighbors will possibly retaliate against you. i had to learn the hard way police oddly enough don't care about your safety where i live, any complaintant is just a nuisance to them. I was targeted by substance abusing perverts in my neighborhood and the police told me nothing was happening despite years of property damage. What really tore me apart was when my neighbor was arrested for molesting a 9 year old in a library. Stupid police, if they would have done their job to begin with that would have never happened. They are worthless here and they don't care about your safety. you do not have to give them your information when you make a complaint. protect yourself because they won't.

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