Five Points South: Don’t let the ‘naysayers’ win

Graffiti on front door 20th Street-- heart of Five Points South
Graffiti on front door 20th Street– heart of Five Points South

I’ve published more than 400 pieces about our Birmingham region in the past seven years.

But I was completely blindsided by comments on the I believe in Birmingham Facebook page for the article, Five Points South landlords are self-destructive. 

The objective of the piece was to recommend that the property owners at Five Points South partner with the City Action Partnership (CAP), a non-profit, to clean and help manage the district. The CAP program downtown has been wildly successful.

You may recognize CAP Ambassadors as the men and women in blue shirts and caps who ride around downtown on bikes and Segways–and who are constantly cleaning the streets and sidewalks.

Two types of negative messages were posted:  (1) Let’s keep Five Points the way it is and (2) David Sher is an insensitive jerk.

I get it.

This is the I believe in Birmingham Facebook page—so any piece that doesn’t appear to believe in Birmingham is anathema—and my comments about having to walk around an unconscious man on the sidewalk may have sounded insensitive.

Some Facebook commenters felt we shouldn’t try to clean up the district. Five Points South may have graffiti, trash, and panhandlers—but that’s the  Five Points they know and love.

Here’s a comment that summarizes those feelings…

“Screw this gentrifying-ass Chamber of Commerce trash. Keep 5 Points dirty, keep 5 Points weird, keep 5 Points friendly to the homeless, and keep your rent-raising luxury studio apartments out of my neck of the woods.”

And comments about me weren’t any kinder.

Some suggested that instead of taking time to write a piece about Five Points, I should put my energy into helping the homeless.

Well, that’s exactly what I’m trying to do.

CAP has a full time employee whose primary responsibility is to interact with and help the homeless.

If the property owners in Five Points were to partner with CAP, then the homeless in Five Points would receive much needed support.

I want to emphasize that CAP is a non-profit—no board member receives any pay. The property owners fund the program at no expense to the city or the public.

CAP laid groundwork for downtown revitalization

Since CAP was established downtown nearly 25 years ago, crime in the CAP district has dropped by about 70%–making downtown’s crime statistics comparable to low crime neighborhoods like Mountain Brook and Vestavia Hills.

CAP Ambassadors give directions, jump dead batteries, air up flat tires, provide security escorts, rescue keys from locked vehicles, and remove graffiti. (See service report for October below*)

I grew up in the Five Points neighborhood and it has a special place in my heart.

Let’s not let the ‘naysayers’ win.

*CAP downtown Service Report October, 2019 

  • Jump starts 240
  • Gas ups 34
  • Unlock 81
  • Flat repair 98
  • Graffiti removal 114
  • Broken glass 75
  • Campsite removal 125

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David Sher is Co-Founder of AmSher Compassionate Collections.  He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).

Invite David to speak to your group for free about a better Birmingham. dsher@amsher.com

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12 thoughts on “Five Points South: Don’t let the ‘naysayers’ win”

  1. Thanks for all you do, David. You’re like the little running back who keeps busting his head trying to get a first down–3 yards and a cloud of dust! You refuse to punt, so you get the first down. And sometimes a big hole opens up and there’s an open seam for a touchdown!

    You refuse to quit on this community, and I appreciate and admire you for it. Just make sure to keep wearing a good helmet!

  2. I’m wondering how much those CAP services cost over the course of the month? Also, 125 campsite removals? And you don’t call that anti-the-homeless? Is it possible that it would be more cost effective for businesses to just clean up their own graffiti and broken glass as they see fit? And for people to have AAA, roadside service, or just ask each other for help if they need it when it comes to all the car services, which dominate this list?

    Jump starts 240
    Gas ups 34
    Unlock 81
    Flat repair 98
    Graffiti removal 114
    Broken glass 75
    Campsite removal 125

    1. Naomi, Do you have any idea what downtown would look like without CAP? CAP cleaned up 114 pieces of graffiti last month–that would annualize at over a 1,000 a year. CAP makes an effort to work with the homeless and get them off the street. The vast majority of the property owners love and appreciate CAP. They are glad to pay the money.

  3. Keep it up David I left Birmingham in 1977 after graduation from high school I never would come home for a visit now iam home 4or5 times a year I love what’s going on in Bham but it’s also changing people’s mind about our city an State naysayer move on Bham is moving in right direction if you don’t want to be apart of it move to Jasper or Anniston

  4. I was a bit surprised when I heard CAPS no longer escorted women to their cars that work downtown after dark. And employee at Hugo Black Courthouse needed some assistance as a senior and called them she was told they no longer escort. This was in October so it must have changed.

  5. David, keep it up! Pointing out problems that can be addressed and corrected is not a negative think. We only do that for things we care about! 5 Points can retain all of its unique attributes and still present itself well. Ignoring problems won’t fix them, and will eventually catch up with us all. (Full disclosure, i went to South Highland School which was where the Trade Towers is now. I am and always have been fond of 5 Points and want to see it do well. I bowled at the bowling alley (and we set our own pins) and went to movies in the theatre. Shopped in Wolworth’s.)

  6. I hope everyone realizes the homeless situation is going to become a little worse when we build the new mental health facility in Irondale for the veterans. I have worked in the homeless arena now for several years and see the veterans at the fountain etc. and listen to their story. The sad part is they come in on buses from everywhere to try and get to the VA .They have on sandals and T-shirts it’s cold up here when it’s warm in Mobile or Florida. Rather than build this facility near UAB and other medical locations that are close to the greyhound bus terminal it has been decided to force these men who have served our country valiantly to hitchhike a ride or walk all the way to Irondale from downtown. When they find this out their first response is to shut down and just shelter nearby and they will be drugged out and probably never make it back where they need to go. So that bit of poor planning will just add to the homeless population I’m sure. I just can’t figure why Irondale for such an important facility unless someone is getting some under the table action. And have you ever driven past the USA Hotel and seen the homeless living under the bridge who panhandle Walmart on a regular basis getting in your car etc. Crazy for sure we should protect or vets PTSD is real.

  7. David, you were not blindsided. That statement is a lie. You knew with a title of “Five Points South landlords are self-destructive”, it would touch a nerve. So stop parading your victim mentality. You got exactly what you wanted…attention.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…David you always present ideas for other people. As for yourself you are unwilling to make commitments to those ideas. Until you are willing to put “skin in the game”, you sound like just another politician.

    Make no mistake, I agree with most of what you state. I just want to see you with the guts to back up your words with actions. Don’t be just another Over the Mountain guy with an opinion of how the neighboring city of Birmingham should be run. As we say in my hood…”Don’t talk about it, be about it!”

    1. John, I believe you’re being a bit hard on me. I am taking action. You are correct–I am trying to get the property owners’ attention. I serve on the board of CAP and CAP has been making a concerted effort for years to convince the Five Points South property owners to join our Business Improvement District (BID). Most people don’t know the boundaries of the BID and when there are issues outside the BID then all of downtown and midtown are painted negatively. I’m on numerous boards and I spend a huge amount of time trying to improve our city and region. I do live in Vestavia, but I grew up around Five Points and have a deep affinity for the area. I’m in Five Points every week and I know Five Points can be so much better. I very much appreciate your comments and I hope you will continue to do so. I am open to any ideas you have and thank you for your passion for Birmingham. All my fellow CAP Board Members are downtown property owners. We all willingly pay for CAP services because we know that a clean and safe area will benefit us all.

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