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Cleveland residents demand faster response on vacant homes near schools

Posted at 9:38 PM, Dec 12, 2019

CLEVELAND — Slavic Village homeowners living near Cleveland's Willow Elementary School are demanding the city improve its response time in dealing with potentially hazardous, unsecured, vacant homes.

Residents contacted News 5 about a house on Victor Avenue that is directly across the street from the elementary school in violation of the city Safe Routes to School program established by Mayor Frank Jackson in 2017.

The programs primary goal is to demolish vacant buildings within 1,000 feet of schools for kids in grades K-8 to minimize dangers of walking to school.

Kacsaundra Martin, the mother of four young daughters, lives just two doors down from the wide open house and said she's used every means possible to get the city to secure the house and get it demolished.

“Oh this isn’t safe for my little girls or any of the little girls and boys at the school, tear it down or condemn it,” Martin said.

“I’ve called the police station, they haven't come out here. They said they were sending a car but never did.”

”There should be no reason that there’s a house right here for someone to kidnap little girls and hid them in.”

Slavic Village community activist Edward McDonald said he's reported four unsecured vacant homes within 1,000 feet of Willow Elementary to the city in the past 15 months.

McDonald said the city program is missing far too many of the vacant homes, which remain standing near schools, putting young students at risk of being abducted or attacked inside the abandoned structures.

“The city should be ashamed of itself because since the death of Alianna DeFreeze and many others that have died in abandoned houses, the city has essentially done nothing,” McDonald said.

“I would say right now the Safe Routes to School program, especially in our neighborhood, is a complete and utter failure. The fact that kids have to walk past houses like this everyday is an embarrassment.”

The City of Cleveland responded to our story and said the Safe Routes to School program is working and has taken down 1,462 vacant structures near schools in the past two years.

The city pledged to re-secure the hope on Victor Avenue in the coming days.

But McDonald said he has eight vacant Cleveland homes on his ledger right now, reporting them to the city 311 system and the Mayor's Action Line.

McDonald said response time is still too slow and he believes more city housing inspectors are needed to adequately insure the safety of students who walk past the abandoned homes every school day.

“As for the house of Victor Avenue, every indication I have is that this isn’t even in the system yet and it hasn’t even be reported at all, there’s no information.”

“How long is it going to be before we end up having another kid, another drug user, another criminal act, or another house burnt.”