It’s 3 a.m., and outside the Waffle House on Harden Street in Five Points small groups of men sit on the curb or lean against the restaurant’s wall, laughing and smoking. Inside, cook Tiffany Jones fixes a plate of bacon for a straggling customer. Jones, a third-year social services student at Benedict College and mother of two, has worked at the Waffle House for over a year. She’s had a nightly, first-hand experience with the effectiveness of the city’s numerous attempts to curb violence in the entertainment district.
By Alex Buscemi
Dec. 3, 2013
Jones says the city’s most recent strategies to reduce violent crime – such as the relocation of homeless people to the city’s shelter and the shutdown of the Five Points nightclub The Library – have been unfair and effective only in short bursts.
She thinks the city is limited in what it can do about the problems and said it’s ultimately up to the offenders themselves to get their lives back on track.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. (listen to entire interview, approximately 10 minutes)
Do you feel safer working here since the city implemented its policy to get the homeless out of the city?
I really ain’t seen much of a change to tell the truth. Most of the ones they thought were homeless are actually just people that enjoy wandering the street at night, so I don’t see the difference.
Do you agree with their policy?
No, not at all. I think that just because people are having a hard time it’s not ending all the things that the city offers homeless people. It’s kind of like an attraction. Kind of redundant.
What do you think is the best way to deal with the homeless problem?
I really don’t’ see like there’s a big solution to it. … When people decide that they’ve had enough of that kind of lifestyle, they get up and do what they feel they need to. The city offers plenty of alternatives to helping people out and getting them on their feet. It’s just choosing to do it. I don’t see where they could do any changes and thinking that they’re pushing them out of the city is, like, actually not working.
Do you feel safer since The Library was shut down?
No. That didn’t affect anything. I mean, In my opinion, The Library is the only club in Five Points, so of course it was the one that drew the problems, that drew the attention. But the same kind of clubs are down there in the Vista. It’s just that I think that … down here in Five Points caters to a younger crowd than in the Vista, so we’re going to have more problems.
Do you think it’s fair that The Library was targeted as a main source of gang activity?
No. Look at the area we’re in. The surrounding area around here is like a gang, ghetto . You got one end of the street that’s really nice; then soon as you pass a corner it’s back into the gang-infested drug areas. It’s the area. It’s not so much that the Library was drawing them in, it’s just the area we’re in. The Vista doesn’t have to deal with that because they’re not surrounded by gang and ghetto areas. …
How do you feel about the gang activity that does occur?
I feel like it’s mainly kids. I think that if Five Points did like what the Vista does and you’re not allowed anywhere in there after 10 o’clock at 21, I think we wouldn’t have near the problems that we have. But being that this is a college area and there are so many freshmen, that that’s not going to happen. But I feel like it’s just dumb kid moves. Most of it’s just these young kids trying to play older with the rest of the crowd.
The Library reopened under a new name, Harden Bar Group, with different lighting and paint. Do you think that’s going to attract a different crowd?
No. It’s still The Library to anybody that asks about where they’re going. … And it’s still the same crowd going there, although, they’re feeling a little bit more angry and agitated, and I think that’s just going to be even more problems because they feel like that certain group of people that went there were targeted.
How has the late-night Waffle House crowd changed since the step-up in police downtown when Martha Childress was shot?
There for a while our attendance, I guess you would say, declined. The business wasn’t as good because they were kinda like forcing everybody out around 2 o’clock when that’s supposed to be our busiest time at night. But here lately it’s starting to pick back up. It’s just like what happened when that kid got beat up downtown and all those guys jumped on him. There for a while business went down, but when they got lax again everybody came back in. It was same old, same old and that’s exactly what’s going to happen now. …
What does your family think of you working here?
They’re just glad that I’m not out like the rest of my brothers in prison or selling dope. I’m actually trying to get somewhere with my life. So it’s better than anything else.