SAN ANTONIO – A group calling themselves the "Ghost Town Survivors" has spent the last six years devoting themselves to an area on the city's West Side that, for decades, has been plagued by drugs, gangs and poverty.
Enveloped by Guadalupe, Saltillo and Barclay streets, the area became known as "Ghost Town" decades ago and was said to be home to the one of the most infamous gangs of the 1960s.
"The Ghost Town Gang was the most notorious gang at that time," said Louie Gallegos, a former member. "There was a lot of gangs all over here, but we were well-known. Everybody knew who the Ghost Towners were."
Gallegos, along with Leonard Mendez, Hector Caldera and Juan Guajardo, helped establish Ghost Town Survivors in 2010. It comprises former gang members who wanted to make a positive difference in the community. The group includes 34 men and 28 women.
"We're have come to a point in our lives where that's what we want to (do)," Gallegos said. "We want to help our neighbors."
In an effort to give back to the community, the Ghost Town Survivors volunteer at the Good Samaritan Center, help families at Christmas, raise money for scholarships and host events ranging from BBQs to small festivals.
"Why not have more people that are from the barrio come back and help with the barrio," Caldera said. "There's people doing that, but I'd like to see more people doing that."
Mendez said part of the reason Ghost Town is afflicted with so much crime, both presently and historically, is due to the socioeconomic makeup of the area.
"A lot of the families in this neighborhood, to this day, are single family. That means, that the mom or the dad is working to provide. That leaves the individual, especially if he's a teen, is left to their own devices," Mendez said. "They run out on the street and have a tendency to fall in with the wrong crowd."
Mendez said he hopes the presence and influence of the Ghost Town Survivors in the community, will help steer youth in the area in a positive direction.