Razing Hell

Sixteen years after the city leveled it, Stella Street remains a junkie wasteland.

By Frank Rubino
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 5 | Posted May. 7, 2008

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Although she could use a good scrubbing, she's pretty, this petite woman in a black leather jacket trying to flag down cars near Germantown and Indiana by waving her crutches at them.

"Works!" she hollers repeatedly. "Works!"

When a stranger approaches, she admits she's selling packaged syringes she gets for free from a van that exchanges the new "works" for old ones in an attempt to thwart HIV and hepatitis. She needs the crutches, she says, because she injured her leg in a car accident. She needs the money because she's a heroin addict.

She sells herself too. "But no sex," she says. "Strictly head."

She's 34 and has four sons. Talking about them makes her feel bad. "I'm not a bad person," she explains. "I just got a drug problem."

She won't give her name, but promises to come up with a pseudonym. Before her, across Germantown Avenue, the spruced-up Fairhill Burial Grounds look picturesque on this sunny spring afternoon. Behind her, an expanse of flattened fallow earth under a green sign that reads "Stella St." looks ghostly and forlorn.

"Yeah, I remember the drug houses that used to be here," the woman says, though she says she never frequented any because she didn't become an addict until after the city had flattened them.

Glancing down at her green T-shirt emblazoned with the word "Unlucky," she grins. "Hey, call me that in the article," she says. "Call me Unlucky."

A white minivan brakes on Germantown Avenue, its driver-side window descending. Unlucky hustles over and starts negotiating.

March 12, 1992. Two months after Mayor Ed Rendell took office, the city began razing more than 40 squalid drug dens on the 1000 block of Stella Street, one of three obscure east-west thoroughfares situated between Indiana Avenue and Cambria Street along the west side of Germantown Avenue.

It was a major story, played out before a throng of print and electronic media.

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Comments 1 - 5 of 5
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1. rogadelic said... on May 8, 2008 at 02:50PM

“So knocking down houses hasn't kept people from getting high? But maybe rebuilding them will? Got it. Thanks.”

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2. ANGEL M. RODRIGUEZ said... on Jan 19, 2009 at 06:36PM

“I live on the 800 block of west stella st. and mostly every house on my block is run down. The city isn't trying to help us do nothing as far as fixing up our houses or cleaning up the vacunt lots which they created. We don't want hand outs or our houses to be fixed for free. We can use a little helping hand with some kind of grant to fix up our propertys at a low intrest rate, especially for those who are of a very low income or those who are on SSI. We too want to live in beatiful homes. Micheal Nutter is quick to recieve credit for things that get done by the people in the commuinty; and slow to do anything for them. If he were to live here on the 800 block of west Stella st. things would be different or thing would get done. I would bet that even if his family were to live here thing would be different!!!!!! The house next door to me is stealing electricity for almost 2 years and i have reported it to L & I to no avail. No one live in that house neigther. There is a crack house on our block and has been reported by almost every body on the block. Guess what? Nothing has been done about it. I wonder why?! Is the City going to do something about it at the next Election so that the person running for Mayor or a city Seat can get credit on TV!!!! YEA!! ITHINK SO!!!!!”

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3. Terry C said... on Mar 21, 2009 at 09:11PM

“Why would you build new homes in those neighborhoods? So they can get wrecked like the ones they replaced were?”

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4. Anonymous said... on May 21, 2010 at 11:47PM

“I'll bet that neighborhood wasn't like that 40 or 50 years ago.

I'll bet it started going to hell in the late 60s or early 70s.”

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5. Jim Clark said... on Sep 4, 2013 at 02:57PM

“It was a very beautiful neighborhood in the late 40's and 50's....I lived there, on Auburn Street. So clean and the houses were so well kept. Too bad it went to hell.”


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