Post and stock photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman.
Shortly after my first post about a property in poor condition formerly owned by Paul Bertelson, he called me up and asked if we could meet for coffee to talk things over. I immediately agreed. My goal in writing about problem properties and/or their owners is to change whether problems of crime or blight occur at these properties. If that can happen through a constructive dialogue with landlords, so much the better. And if not, then NoMi neighbors and bloggers shouldn't pull any punches about the extent of any problems we're seeing.
With that in mind, Paul and I first talked about...
...his concern that even though issues had been brought up on this blog and an old JNS post, nobody had contacted him directly. That concern is understandable, but Bertelson wasn't familiar with the strategies Paul Koenig once employed. Koenig would have neighbors call him about problems, take a long time to respond, and then when things finally became unbearable, neighbors would call various city departments in exasperation. However, despite an ongoing problem for months or over a year or more, if nobody had called 311, 911, or any other appropriate entity at the city, there was no track record of this ever being an issue in need of resolution.
To make matters worse, Koenig also reportedly shifted his problem tenants around. Thank goodness for the hard-nosed residents over on Hillside Avenue who told him this was unacceptable and brought the practice to the attention of city police and inspections.
So Bertelson needed to understand that we've been burned in the past and because of that, many neighbors don't see the landlord as a responsive first call. My advice to anyone reading this: don't hesitate to call the landlord or property owner to inform them of problems occurring on their block or at their houses. But appropriate calls should also be made to 311 so that if the problems continue unabated, we have documented a pattern of behavior that allows for swift enforcement actions.
Other commenters here and on JNS have accused Bertelson of somehow "hiding behind" his Christianity through involvement with his LLC Mission Inn Incorporated, as well as with Urban Homeworks and Youthworks. In talking to him, I have to say that he didn't come across as someone who uses such things as a smokescreen of any kind. His desire to help others seems genuine, and he tries to reach out to reach out to people in difficult situations and give them housing.
Growing up in the Lutheran church myself, and being a bishop's son, I could go toe-to-toe with him all day bout Biblical passages where Jesus' followers are instructed to reach out to the poor, the homeless, and those who society has rejected. So I can easily understand where he's coming from in his approach to rental housing for those in deep need. However, I stated that if in so doing, he is careless to the point where his tenants either damage houses or act in such a way that neighbors are put at risk, then he's really failing in the implementation of his Christian faith. He agreed.
Bertelson gave me his phone number and email address and asked that he be contacted by neighbors near his properties if there are any problems. He agreed to give a list of those properties so that we know what to look out for, and he committed to coming to the housing, block club, or crime/safety meetings of neighborhood groups to address any potential concerns. He confirmed his email address as firstname.lastname@example.org.
I did get his phone number, but the notebook where that is written down is currently in my crumpled shell of a former car. (I was in an accident, not at fault, car is totaled, I'm okay, and all the other details are being worked out.) I'll post that number once I track it down again. In the meantime, let's make Bertelson aware of any issues at his properties, but hopefully in a way that fosters a constructive dialogue.