One in five East Cleveland properties are abandoned; Vacant homes increase crime

EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio - The problem of abandoned homes in East Cleveland is twice as bad as it is in the city of Cleveland.

According to data from Case Western Reserve University, one out of every five properties in East Cleveland is abandoned. That's compared to one out of every 10 properties in Cleveland.

"They (the abandoned homes) make it easier for the crimes to occur," said Frank Ford of the non-profit urban revitalization project Thriving Communities. "There are lots of places to hide. It's very scary."

Seventy-two-year-old Willie Naylor knows how scary abandoned homes can be. He's surrounded by them.

"Sometimes I just feel like I want to walk away," said Naylor, who's lived on Elsinore Street in East Cleveland for more than 45 years.

The homes on either side of Naylor are abandoned and so are four homes across the street. Naylor said it's a stark contrast from the days when he and his wife raised their four kids here.

"It's a beautiful street during the days when we moved in," he added. "We had people living here, people living there, everybody kept their property up."

East Cleveland Mayor Gary Norton acknowledged Tuesday that the vacant house problem in his city is bad.

"We've had more vacant and abandoned homes than we've ever had in the past decades," Norton said.

But he said the city doesn't have the money to successfully tackle the problem and demolish the homes. That would require at least $50 million. Instead, it can only afford to tear down a handful of houses every few years.

That realization leaves little hope for Naylor who admits he feels unsafe and trapped in his own home.

"You can't just walk away from it," he said. "It's paid for, nobody's going to buy it, so what are you going to do?"

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