Initiative boards up more than 300 abandoned homes in Harvey

ByChristian Piekos via WLS logo
Wednesday, August 10, 2022
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Two men in the south suburbs said they are making Harvey safer by boarding up abandoned homes.

HARVEY, Ill. (WLS) -- The South Suburban Public Safety Initiative has now boarded up over 300 abandoned homes in Harvey.

It's a mission the organization's founders said began two years ago to make this city a better and safer place to live.

One house at a time, Jason Decker and Alvin Foster board up abandoned Harvey homes.

"Observing people's complaints about these abandoned properties here in Harvey, being a former board up specialist, I volunteered my time and my truck and my tools, if people donated plywood, I would board them up," Decker said.

Decker, who is running for Cook County Commissioner, said this effort is not political, but rather a matter of public safety.

"They cause fear just by knowing they are wide open," he said. "You don't know what's going on in there....Kids have gone in here and gotten hurt. Criminals use them for staging for criminal activity."

For two years, Decker and Foster have boarded up over 300 homes in the south suburban community.

Foster was raised in Harvey and wants his family to be safe.

"You have to worry about somebody sleeping in the house next to you in the middle of the night not knowing what's going on," Foster said. "It's a great deal to know these houses are secure."

However, the duo said the project was met with some resistance from city officials at the start.

"When we were at number 78, the city sent an inspector out and said we weren't licensed, we didn't have a permit, we weren't allowed to do this," Decker said.

Decker followed the city's request, but resumed his work, now saying his efforts are protected under Illinois state law.

"If a property is abandoned, we as citizens have the right to do landscaping, to make it look nice and to secure doors and windows with plywood," Decker said.

As buzz saws screech, Decker said the efforts are worth it.

"What I consider a minimal effort has affected thousands of people here in Harvey," he said.

The City of Harvey released a statement saying, "Under the Leadership of Mayor Clark, the City of Harvey has initiated an aggressive blight reduction program to address the decades long challenge of abandoned and unsafe structures in the city of Harvey."The City is happy to use this opportunity to announce that through congressionally directed funding secured by Congresswomen Robin Kelly along with grant funds awarded by Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) Strong Communities Program, the City will commence demolition of 24 unsafe structures. The Cook County No Cash bid program and Mayor Clark's Residential Reactivation Program are both aggressively being used to acquire these properties and, promote homeownership."We ask that if residents identify any open or unsafe structure to report them to City Hall at 708 210-5300 or use our report a concern online portal at cityofharveyil.gov."