931 and 931 and a half Stockton Street are no longer standing. Both structures were abandoned years ago.
"We had squatters in this house," said Tony Harmon, Charleston's Building Commissioner. "There was talk of drug activity. Police had to come up here on several occasions."
Gregory Hendricks lives next door to the abandoned homes. "There was a lot of people going in and out that didn't live there. The police was always here," he said. Last summer, Hendricks had to call 911 when he saw smoke coming from the house. "It probably would have become a full blown fire if my dog hadn't of alerted me to it."
His dog started barking uncontrollably. "So I looked out, and sure enough, it was on fire," he said. That was the second time this year. "You have the houses in such close proximity to one another. These things are bound to happen."
"Just recently as yesterday there was someone in the house," Harmon said. The Commission was instrumental during the transformation of Charleston's east end. Harmon said, "Many of the positive changes in that neighborhood are the result of the abandoned structures coming down. "It took the community, us, and everybody," he said. "People have to be willing to put money into it and work with us instead of against us."
Neighbors have been speaking up and voicing their concerns. As a result, those old houses came down.
It's not a quick process. Harmon said many homes end up abandoned because they just don't have any re-sale value. They eventually become a rental, and in many cases the unit isn't taken care of. "It no longer can be rented," Harmon said. "So they end up boarded up and dilapidated until we tear them down."
If a home isn't up to code a lean can be put on the property. After a period of time with no response it can come down. Charleston alone typically takes down about 50 houses a year. "It makes room for people to buy more property and build newer houses in the neighborhood," Hendricks said.
That's just what these neighbors want, transformation, a new reputation. Police and residents agree that if anything, they're on the right track. It's just going to take a community coming together.
Harmon said that just because an abandoned home hasn't come down near you, that does not mean they aren't coming down at all. He said the best way to get the attention of the Building Commission is to call them. He said residents of the communities are their eyes and ears.