“It’s not vandalism. The vandalism is the building itself.” Jill O’Neal Smith, The Baltimore Sun, http://bsun.md/19Zq31a
I live in a community that doesn’t have many blighted structures. The one we did have was quickly bought, fixed up, and sold to a company that now rents the home. This could be because I reside in a place that has visible signs of life. Neighbors sit on their front porch and yell hello, they cut each other’s lawn, borrow tools, and sugar. We even have a neighborhood grandmother. She will watch the kids as they run from home to home, calling out and issuing warnings.
However, this is Baltimore. I can walk a few blocks and see a house that is clearly not occupied. There are food flyers that litter the stoop and one too many Yellow Books. The grass is overgrown and the bushes make the sidewalk hard to pass. Someone else noticed the vacant house. They are called Wall Hunters. They are a program of Slum Lord Watch. Their mission is to bring attention to the vacant and dilapidated houses that contaminate our neighborhoods. They paint a portion of the vacant house and give information to the community to call the owners responsible. No one wishes to live in a community which closely resembles a Chernobyl.
Families fear that one blighted home is much like a virus. It will infect all the other homes if we do not quarantine. So we do. We go about our way calling 311 and look up the owner’s information. We learn that many of these properties are not owned by people but by corporations who have neglected to remember that they own a property. The companies typically have a comparably fast response time for fixing or selling the property. My community has been empowered to take care of our neighborhood, yet not all communities have the same resources. I believe that Wall Hunters has found a unique solution to one of the problems of urban blight by drawing attention to what has been an eye sore to what is now a work of art.