Initiative Turns Neighborhood Eyesores into Beacons of Hope

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Abandoned and condemned homes are hotbeds for crime.  But, a Winnebago County initiative aims to turn those homes from eyesores into beacons of hope for the community.

Thirty-one homes will come down as part of the Winnebago County and Comprehensive Community Solutions. Everything inside will be removed.  However, they aren’t going to landfills. 

Project Manager Bill Howard said they are working together to develop the community in a different way.

“Deconstruction is kind of sweeping the nation, as an alternative to landfill,” said Howard.

A construction crew consisting of five men go from house to house, dismantling the structures.  They gather lumber and most materials from the deconstruction in order to recycle and reuse.

“The art of re-purposing is to make something that is worthless into something that is worth it,” said Howard. “[It’s] enough to make a living wage.”

After the properties are demolished, CCS has some options for the future of the vacant land.  The goal to replace the eyesores of the neighborhood.  CCS Executive Director Kerry Knodle says the property can be sold to a neighbor, transformed into parks, or even playgrounds.

“There are several acceptable end uses for the property, but the primary objective of course is to get this gone.”

Charles Townsend, Construction worker, said since they began deconstructing the homes throughout the area, they have received positive feedback from the community.

“We get people riding past, and giving us thumbs up and thank you’s, like thanks for tearing that piece of garbage down,” said Townsend.  “Now, with them gone, there’s room for improvement.”

In total, there have been 22 deconstructed homes and eight that have been demolished.  CCS believes there will be more rounds of funding from the Illinois Housing Development Authority to continue the program.

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