During the past 10 years Mocha Gary has lived on Glen Mawr Street in the West End neighborhood of Sheraden, she’s seen the house next to her and the house across from her go into foreclosure and several other houses on her street torn down. According to the city’s listing of vacant lots for sale, there are more than 10 vacant lots on her street and a walk down Gary’s block reveals even more vacant homes.

NO TRESPASSING—Mocha Gary points out a broken window on the vacant house next door. (Photos by Rebecca Nuttall)

The house behind hers was condemned and vacant for four years before it was torn down. Now Gary says large rodents have taken up residence in the vacant lot’s overgrown grasses. She also believes people have been trespassing in the vacant house next door.

“I just think it’s disgusting that they’re not fixing these up. A house like this is where drug addicts go to get high,” said Gary referring to the vacant house next door to hers with a broken window. “It’s unclean, unhealthy. It’s just disgusting.”

Complaints like Gary’s can be heard throughout the ailing neighborhood. But now Sheraden residents could have their prayers answered thanks to a newly announced revitalization partnership aimed at reducing foreclosure and blight.

“For the first time in over 20 years, Sheraden is receiving much needed and deserved revitalization efforts,” said City Council District 2 Representative Theresa Kail-Smith in a release announcing the partnership. “With its diverse and affordable housing stock and easy access to Downtown, the airport, and reliable public transportation, Sheraden is ripe for change.”

The partnership is a collaboration between Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group, NeighborWorks Western PA, the West End Alliance, the Urban Redevelopment Authority, the Pittsburgh Housing Development Corporation, and Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh.

The URA plans to use federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program funding to purchase, renovate and sell vacant homes in Sheraden. However, little can be done to revitalize the already vacant lots.

An additional component of the revitalization effort will be financial, credit counseling, and foreclosure prevention classes to educate residents. Eddie Cunningham who has lived on Landis Street since 1999 said he’s already planning to attend the workshops.

“I’d like to see some reform. You kick the people out of the house and then you don’t want to do anything with it,” Cunningham said. “It’s an unfair environment for first time home buyers. If you educate some people in the neighborhood, maybe you wouldn’t see so many vacant homes.”

Cunningham also blames the unstable economy for the number of vacant homes in Sheraden. As a result of the housing crisis, roughly 350 of the approximately 2100 homes in the neighborhood were foreclosed on.

But for Gary, the vacant houses and blight are indicative of greater problems in Sheraden such as increasing crime rates and poor educational opportunities. She believes focusing on the youth is the key to revitalizing the troubled neighborhood.

“I would like to see them clean up this neighborhood,” Gary said. “There’s nothing for these kids to do. Children who don’t go out and hang on the corner, there’s nothing for them to do. That’s why there’s so much trouble here.

Sheraden began to take a turn for the worse between 2000 and 2010 when the population decreased by 13 percent due to a increase in vacancy, blight, and property tax delinquency. The city’s effort is part of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, a program created by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to help stabilize the housing market and encourage homeownership.

(For more information visit Sheraden15204.blogspot.com.)

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