A quick drive through five blocks near Cleveland's Buckeye-Shaker Neighborhood tells a new tale at every plot of land.
The area is between Crestwood Avenue to the north, Rosehill Avenue to the south, Woodhill Road to the west and East 110th Street to the east, and is the focus of the Buckeye Ministry and Missions Alliance. Pastor Ernest Fields coordinates the group and says it all came together when three Pastors were asked to pray for the streets nearby.
The yellow outline shows the five blocks the Buckeye Ministry and Missions Alliance focuses on.
"We saw a need beyond prayer," said Pastor Fields. "We saw a need to actually get involved in doing some cleaning up of the street."
Now the Alliance, made up of three churches, is leading residents and community organizations in cleaning up vacant lots, rehabilitating old homes and showing that progress in the community is possible.
Meetings every two weeks through most of the year bring together religious leaders, community members, and local organizations.
"When you look at the streets, what they used to look like, and you see the improvements now, even the residents know that these streets have had a marked improvement," said Pastor Fields.
He says those changes make it much more likely for residents to step up.
"It begins to give hope to the residents that something is actually happening," said Pastor Fields.
The work makes the streets nicer to see and safer to live on, but it also helps in a way that's a little harder to define.
An abandoned building on the corner of Rosehill Avenue collects graffiti and has broken windows near Woodhill Road.
"Can you imagine the impact on the psyche, every day you're looking at that blight, you're looking at those horrible looking houses," said Western Reserve Land Conversancy Thriving Communities Initiative Community Engagement Specialist Jaqueline Gillon.
A sign promoting the work the Alliance is doing hangs near Rosewood and Woodhill.
Gillon says the blight is one more hurdle neighbors have to overcome and targeted community action can remove it. Pastor Fields says at the start of their efforts, a study showed that 70 homes through the five blocks needed to be knocked down or fixed up. The group is about halfway through that list.
"Once you clear away the blighted properties you can see what the neighborhood looks like," said Gillon.
Vacant lots sit ready to be used as community spaces or could eventually hold new homes.
Empty lots can be re-purposed into community gardens like the one on Rosehill or, with the help of Habitat for Humanity, new homes could soon be built where old homes have been torn down.
"We've seen the lots cleaned up, we've seen houses being rehabilitated," said Pastor Fields. "Now we see the possibility of new housing being build in some places."