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Central Hillsiders remain loyal to area

By LIZ ENKE
DCN Correspondent

Drugs, muggings, troubled teens, homeless bums and crime—lots of crime. These are words that are used as preconceived notions to describe Duluth’s Central Hillside. Many think these words truly describe the area, but if you ask a resident of the Central Hillside and you should be prepared for a pleasant surprise.

A crisp breeze of light flurries has made its presence known in the Northland again; a typical morning in the Central Hillside. Cars keep the roads company while passer-bys attend to the sidewalks. There’s no telling where people are headed as they trek through the area. Some just seem to be aimlessly walking, most with a smile on their face shouting out a friendly “hi? to the people they pass.

Abby Fleissner, who works with adult men who have drug addiction problems, was born and raised in Duluth. Fleissner lived in Minneapolis and the Woodland area also but prefers living Hillside.

“I love living in the Central Hillside,? said Fleissner. “It’s the love of living around action and all the people, and it’s the most varied. It’s a very multicultural area.?

Fleissner said that she comes across many different types of people in the hillside ranging from college students to single parents to the homeless.

Although she believes the Central Hillside is a great place to live she is not oblivious to the negative things others attach the area with.

“Some people are afraid of the area,? said Fleissner. “There is definitely crime, drugs and bad things going on. Some people are afraid to come here because they think it’s like coming to Chicago.?

She believes that living in the Central Hillside has given her a glimpse of the world. Fleissner stated that there is crime everywhere and acknowledges there is crime that goes on in the area but she doesn’t consider it a “high-crime area.?

“I remember when Congdon had some incidents of home invasions and everyone was in shock, but that’s reality,? Fleissner said.

Fleissner didn’t deny that there weren’t things to be aware of or the fact that crime does happen in the Hillside, but she believes that things like that are blown out of proportion.

“You’re not going to get mugged walking down the street,? said Fleissner. “If I walk down the street I see a lot of different people—a lot of them homeless. I say ‘hi’ and they always say ‘hi’ back.?

Fleissner lived in Woodland for a short period of time and did not enjoy it. She couldn’t stand the lack of diversity and said she wouldn’t live anywhere but the Hillside.

Claudette Huth was also born and raised in the Central Hillside. As a Fourth Street Market employee and mother she takes pride as being a Central Hillside resident.

“Everybody knows everybody,? said Huth. “Especially working here, it gives me a chance to get to know everyone.?

Even though Huth admitted to making sure her children are picked up by dark because she acknowledged crime does occur, she is displeased with the way the Central Hillside is seen or assumed to be by others.

“My husband is Black,? said Huth. “There have been times I’ve gotten pulled over when he has been riding in the car. When I’m alone that has never happened. He even got pulled over while riding his bike one day.?

Huth used to live out west but said that the Central Hillside is her favorite area in Duluth.

“I couldn’t see my kids being raised anywhere else,? Huth said.

Angela Ellis has been driving her bus around the Central Hillside for eight years and has gotten the chance to get to know the actual people of the area.

Ellis, also a resident of the area, has experienced the good and bad of the Central Hillside, but she believes that people living in the area are no different than other people.

“It’s cool,? said Ellis. “I think it sometimes gets a stereotype because it’s the more ‘ghetto part of Duluth,’ but to me it’s my hood; it’s where I grew up.?

“It’s a lot of people who are trying to commute, they are trying to make their way, they’re trying to pay their bills just like everyone else,? said Ellis. “You got bad seeds in there, yeah there’s crack heads; I’ve seen them.?

Ellis believes that the heart of the Central Hillside can be found in the people.

“I think that people that live there they get along with each other because they’re kind of all in the same boat—they’re struggling,? said Ellis.

As a bus driver Ellis is grateful that she has gotten the chance to engage with an array of people.

“You get to know people,? said Ellis. “You get to know [that] they have a problem walking or they’re the quiet drunk. You get to know them because they chit-chat with you.?

Ellis said that many minorities and teenagers ride her bus and is fed up because they have a bad reputation behind them as a minority.

“A Black teenager gets on my bus I say, ‘hey, how ya doin’?’ and to the white kid, ‘hey how ya doin’? Anybody,? said Ellis. “They’re going to come on my bus and I’m going to have a smile for them, and I’m going to tell them to have a nice day because they may not hear that at home.?

She doesn’t think it’s fair that these kids have to deal with the brunt of stereotype in the Central Hillside and tries to engage with them as much as possible.

“I think it’s all about your attitude,? said Ellis. “I hear a lot of drivers hawking, but I really think it’s their attitude. I try to be a friendly face.?

Ellis loves her community and is taking it upon her to make the Central Hillside to appear more positive in outsiders’ eyes.

“I’ll wave if I see people I know on the street,? said Ellis. “There’s people waving to me all the time. This is my community. I love my community and I always try to help the little man.?