Gary homes demolished as way to fight crime

September 19, 2013 (GARY, Ind.)

The stories of lives lived in Ms. Brewer's old house came to an end Thursday.

Ms. Brewer passed away many years ago and recently the house had become a spot for drinking parties, attracting people outside the neighborhood.

Longtime resident Wendell Harris Sr. hopes this signals a positive change his block of Gary.

"It's disheartening, but the main thing you know you can see things are coming back this way," he said.

The city of Gary has demolished several buildings on Harris' block and they'd like to do many more.

"We want to honor the folks who have remained in the neighborhoods, who maintain their properties by taking care of these problem properties for them," said Joe Van Dyk, director of redevelopment.

But the city still burdened by the divestment after steel mill jobs left and a recent recession, doesn't have the money to tear down the more than 10,000 abandoned buildings.

Lake County Sheriff John Buncich grew up on the west side of Gary and says he's now witnessing a rapid increase in serious crime centered around abandoned buildings.

"They're using it for hangouts, headquarters that sort of thing," he said. "Plus it's just destroying the neighborhoods as a whole and it's just getting to the point now where it's become a very serious situation."

He's joining the city's efforts to get help.

This week he sent a letter Indiana's governor requesting resources to demolition abandoned buildings in Gary.

Harris has lived on the block since 1946. He hopes more tear downs will make way for a new beginning for Gary.

"The deterioration, you know, it's kind of sickening, but I know we are coming back," he said. "I know after we tear down we are going to renew, that's the main thing."

Indiana's Department of Corrections has already provided help taken down five abandoned homes.

But there are thousands of homes on the list to be demolished and the symbol of the problem is the old hotel across from Gary City Hall.

The city of Gary will take bids on that demolition next month.

The troublesome abandoned buildings are both commercial and residential.

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