John Steele (right) is welcomed into the neighborhood by Clem Allen (left) without any issues of color to the west side of Gary.
John Steele and his grandmother’s 99-year-old best friend who he has cared for all his life, needed to move out of Niles, Michigan because according to him every time his African American friend would visit him, members of the Klu Klux Klan would shoot their guns into the air to scare them and it worked. He says it was the police who informed him it was the Klan shooting so he decided it was time that they moved. Where did he decide to move the two of them to – Gary, Indiana.
Steele said technically they lived in Niles, but they are originally from Munster, Indiana where he still owns a home. He said he decided to move to Gary because he loves the city. He said, “Gary has a lot of possibilities and I think if the government would change, Gary would change for the better. It has a lot to do with the citizens as well. I love the people of Gary.”
Steele said they moved to Gary from his nine-acre ranch style home with an in-ground pool in Niles. He said, “I did not know 13th Street in Niles was where the KKK lived. Shooting their guns in the air every time my friend would visit me freaked me out. I lived there for a year until I decided it was time for us to move.”
Steele said when he purchased his home on the west side of Gary, it had been repossessed from the owners – he bought it sight unseen. He said, “I sent my friend there to check it out and when he looked at it the basement was not flooded, but the day I bought it, I saw that it was flooded with four feet of water.”
He said the mole had accrued in the house and he had two weeks to move out of the house in Niles. He said he didn’t know what he was going to do. The home had also been vandalized which strip- ped the house of its water heater and furnace. He said, “We still loved the house.”
Now having lived in Gary for only four months Steele said one of the first neighbors he met was Clem Allen. One of the other neighbors he met was Shawn, who he gave a computer to since his hobby was working on computers. He also helped Allen around his house as well. “I gave Shawn a computer and he is having the time of his life with it. I love to see people happy so if we can’t help one another then why live. That’s the way I was brought up,” said Steele.
Steele said a lot of his friends in Munster were shocked to learn he was moving to Gary. He said, “A lot of my friends from Munster have snubbed me. They figured if I moved from Munster into Gary that I have lost all of my wealth and everything. That is not true of me at all. I just live a low key life.”
He said, “When I moved here a lot of people were in shock. I know I’m the only white person in this neighborhood and I can care less. A lot of people have opened their arms and some of my new neighbors have even brought us desserts.”
The only challenge he’s come against so far has been dodging the potholes in the roads, the streetlights not working and the house fires have increased. He said, “The last time I was in Gary was in 2009 and I was amazed from then to now how the street lights don’t work.”
Steele said his move to Gary has been good for him and his grandmother’s friend who he refers to as his aunt. He says she really doesn’t have an opinion on being here because she hasn’t really seen a lot of Gary. He said, “We take the back roads because I don’t want her to see all of the burnt down houses. She likes the people and the neighbors she has met because they have been very kind to her. They can’t believe she’s 99 years of age.”
Steele said the hardest part about becoming a resident of Gary has been with him having to deal with a water company problem. It has been a challenge for him to set up an account since the previous owners of the house did not take their name off the water bill.
He said, “The water company came out and shut the water off for one day. I could not believe they would do that. My aunt was very upset. I had to set up a porter potty and have my lawyer threaten a lawsuit on them, but they came out the next day and turned the water back on. I’m glad we are here in Gary.”