Roy Barker, 63
Roy Barker didn’t want to move to the 2600 block of Colfax Avenue N. But he fancied the layout of the house and he especially liked that he could buy it in 2008 for a recession-dampened price.
The block was rougher then. Twice, cops set up in his yard while they responded to nearby calls. The gate on his fence was torn loose when cops chased a suspect.
Now, he wishes the block had more property owners, not as many houses owned by investor landlords. Still, improvements have happened as neighbors worked together. He’s one of several residents on the block who will talk to neighbors about rowdy or illegal behavior — or call the city if needed.
“You can change your environment,” said Barker, who works with at-risk people to improve their lives. “Your environment doesn’t have to change you.”
He has upgraded the house’s fixtures and furnishings, and he resodded his entire yard this summer.
George Bazoff, 76
George Bazoff once was the block captain who laid down the law on this block.
But these days Bazoff lives in the kind of rundown property that he used to rail against. The lawn is overgrown, the two vehicles out back have smashed windows, and the house sometimes smells.
Bazoff said artery disease and complications from an old spinal injury in the service led to the double amputation that confines him to an electric wheelchair. He frequently uses it to zip down to Lyndale and Broadway Avenues N.; a car driving through a parking lot there hit him, injuring his neck.
He lives with his niece, Regina Cline, who works as a personal care attendant. But they’re hundreds of dollars behind on city utility bills. She blames the grass on a mower being stolen; they try to trim it with weed-whackers. The smell may come from raccoons, she said.
Bazoff, who was twice convicted of welfare fraud decades ago, still wheels the block with his hand-operated grabber to pick up litter. He calls police asking for drug raids, and said he will be on the block “until they put me in a black bag and carry me out.”
Josh Barker, 10
Josh Barker is one of the kids on the 2600 block of Colfax Avenue, and he knows his limits.
“I can go over the street over there as long as Dad can see me,” he said.
That’s probably why he still has his scooter, skateboard and bike. He’s learned from the experiences of one of his playmates, Jacob Van Sickle, 8, who got jumped twice by kids who tried to steal his bike.
The friends sometimes play two-hand touch in the vacant lot across from Josh’s house. He remembers what the neighborhood was like when Terrell Mayes got shot.
“That was back when it was really not good. People are changing now,” said Josh, who also spends time with his gentle blue-nose pit bull, Diamond.
His current passion is playing the guitar; he’s been taking lessons for two years. He also takes boxing lessons at a nearby gym. He’d like to follow in the footsteps of his father, Roy Barker, who owns a company.
“I want to be as successful as him,” Josh said.
Lyssa Overton, 60
Lyssa Overton lives in the house where Terrell Mayes died. That’s why there are plastic flowers at the base of its north wall. Terrell’s mother brought them.
But to Overton, her daughter and two grandchildren, the blue four-bedroom home is a refuge.
Life has been tough on Overton and her clan. They’ve had extended stays in homeless shelters, something she vows they’ll never do again.
That’s why she leapt when her landlord offered her chance to buy a house others wouldn’t even rent after Terrell died. The monthly $602 payments are less than she paid the landlord to rent elsewhere.
Overton is on disability for mental illness and partial blindness, and her daughter gets disability as well. They used a disability settlement to give the landlord a down payment.
“We told him when we got the back pay that we didn’t want to piss it away,” Overton said.
Their biggest problem is lack of a car. They go to the food shelf by bus.