We Are West St. Paul
"So I actually moved out to West St. Paul in 2004 after I had my first son. I have three boys. I have a 19-year-old, a six-year-old and a four-year-old. In 2004 I moved out here from Saint Paul. I grew up like right off of Rice St., University, like that neighborhood. That just wasn't the area I wanted to raise my family. Actually, the day we moved out, somebody got shot and killed in front of our apartment. I was a renter out there too. That was a good reminder. I didn’t want to be out there. We lived in South St. Paul for a bit, but we always found our way back to West St. Paul. And it's just been such a different experience, like a more positive experience and things.
As far as my younger two, they don't know Saint Paul. They don't. It's kind of weird to bring them out there because they are just like the bigger city. It’s kind of funny watching them grow here a little bit, from where I came from, my background, and things like that. It's kind of nice though to see them because I feel like they thrive more up here.
I’ve always been a renter. It started out with my parents, they were renters. I think the only person who owned in my immediate family was my brother. I don’t have to do the shoveling, raking, ground maintenance. And I love that. I don’t want to get out and shovel. Any kind of maintenance doesn’t come out of my pocket, it’s already fixed into the rent. I have onsite laundry and I don’t drive. I don’t have to haul my stuff to the laundromat.
My apartment complex does a lot to try to engage the community, but people don’t necessarily engage, or if they do it’s the same people I always see, or it’s the kids that go out and not always the parents. My apartment complex is good at trying to bring the neighbors together. Last month they brought a food truck. During the summer on Fridays, they had water days where they would turn on the sprinklers and the kids could play while they were renovating our indoor pool. It’s up to us as the neighbors to gather, they put the events on and it’s up to us to go. Our apartment manager, she’s really good at organizing events.
My kids and I go to what we call the yellow park in West St. Paul. Southview Park. We love that park. That’s where they had PRIDE in the Park one year. It’s always quiet over there. My boys always know the kids there from school or camp. The events are always held during work there. It is nice though for the kids who stay at home in the summer. My son did T-ball one year at that park. It was convenient to have it at a later time and they offered multiple times. If there were a couple more evening things, that would be nice. Ever since COVID, I haven’t had a set job schedule. But I’ve been able to spend more time with my kids.
We caught the holiday lights one year when they came past our apartment. We didn’t have to go anywhere. We just walked right out to the back to see them. We went to the Explore West St. Paul Days parade this summer and were going to go to the Saturday concert before it got flooded out. I did volunteer with ROCC [Residents of Color Collective], and this was the first year I took off. I took this summer off to spend time with my family and take care of my mental health. But we were able to watch the parade this year and that was fun. I call my 4-year-old my COVID kid. He wasn't born during COVID. But he was born in 2019, so he's kind of grown up through COVID. My kids have grown up through COVID and George Floyd so they're only used to being in marches and things like that. So us watching as parade goers, they were kind of confused. They didn't know the whole candy situation, they didn't know what to do and I'm like you guys go get the candy! My four-year-old said there were too many people for him. I don’t know if that’s why more people aren’t coming out of their apartments. Before I used to be able to be out in crowds, and now if there are more than like 5 people, it’s too many.
We went to the backpack event with the movie in the park. That was fun. They had the SWAT team and my friend's son accidentally got himself handcuffed in the back of the buggy. He wasn’t scared at all. The kids loved it. They loved the drone, and now they want a drone for Christmas because the cops had theirs out there. The kids always find themselves back playing at the park during events. I love the foam parks, not the woodchips but the foam. The woodchips always get stuck in their hair. My kids are biracial, they are Mexican and Black, and it is hell trying to pick that stuff out of their hair. Teachers say the kids bring scarves or caps, but I don’t want my kids to have to put something on to go play. Once the woodchips are in that curly hair... So, I love the foam parks. We love the new Thompson Park, it’s all foam. I had so much fun there. That park is more for everybody, it’s more accessible for kids in wheelchairs. Also, I don’t drive, so I always find these walking paths in the parks that are connected.
West St. Paul is like one of those TV show neighborhoods like Gilmore Girls. It’s busy during the day, but at night it’s quiet and you can have the movie in the park and do things like that. It’s kind of cool meeting people outside of West St. Paul like at work or someplace else who are also from here. Or seeing someone you know from the Facebook page. You run into those people like Fred from Starbucks. I think that’s where I’ve met most of my connections from. I ran for school board in 2021 and made some more connections that way too. I love the community. I’ve talked about moving closer to work or out of West St. Paul and I can’t do it. I just love West St. Paul so much. At times I really want to engage more in the community, but I know right now I can’t exhaust myself while focusing on my family and my mental health.
Look into the schools if you’re going to have your family here and which neighborhood you would want to live in. Get involved, find a group, get involved in events. I think that’s how we keep the community safe. Everybody is always looking out for each other. I’ve never had a bad experience living out here. Getting involved in your community impacts the bigger neighborhood. My biggest thing has always been making sure I live near the bus line because I don’t drive. So knowing where that is is important.
I feel like homeowners get this bad rep from renters, it’s like we’re treading on their territory. There are reasons why I rent. I don’t want to shovel or do those types of things. The amount of rent I pay is double what a lot of people’s mortgages are. I can’t speak for homeowners. Some people think “oh you rent, you must not have enough money or not do this or that or something”. And apartment prices are ridiculous and there is not a cap on rent. People don’t see that part. All of these new apartments have caused my rent to go up significantly. And I don’t live in one of the newer buildings. If homeowners could speak up for renters or see our side of it. It’s scary to think about owning a home. Or my safety. I live on the third floor in a secure building. For a single woman, a mom. Living in a home that’s only secured by cameras. Or even thinking about house fires. Everybody on my floor watches out for each other. If there’s an emergency, you can knock on your neighbor's door, and they know you. There really isn’t a difference between them when it comes to community. West St. Paul is so good for apartment buildings. It would be nice if there were more community things for kids, a place for them to go after school. We don’t have a boys and girls club or a community center. West Side has the boosters, we don’t have that in West St. Paul. It would be nice if I could volunteer if we had a community center or a sports team."