Albany residents raise concerns over vacant homes after house fire

Some residents are worried about the safety of the area near the vacant homes.
Published: May. 31, 2023 at 9:23 PM EDT|Updated: May. 31, 2023 at 11:26 PM EDT
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ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - An early morning Albany house fire has many concerned about vacant homes in their neighborhood.

There is a vacant home on the 1000 block of 9th Avenue that residents in the community say has been a problem that tends to attract homeless people and drug addicts.

Grady O’Neal lives in the neighborhood. He told WALB that he has a young daughter who should not be exposed to anything that could put her in danger.

“We are just trying to get stuff done about it. This is the second time this has happened, and we just want to shed some light on it to let the commissioners and the city know that we are not safe with drug addicts walking around our community,” said Pastor Grady O’Neal, an Albany resident.

Ruth Davis has been living in the community for nearly 10 years and still hasn’t seen any changes made. That’s why Davis and others in the community try to watch out for each other.

“In that house are a lot of homeless people come in the afternoon. Really about 8 o’clock, because that’s when I take my dog out so that she can do that for the night. I see homeless people going in, and early morning if I take my walk, I see them coming out that house there,” Davis said.

During a WALB investigation in April, we reported the number of vacant buildings around Albany is increasing faster than city leaders can clean them up. Part of the reason is that courts are backlogged with cases on blighted buildings. Until then, neighbors are forced to deal with the fallout.

“When I started to see drug users and stuff coming in here. So we called the police to try to get it known, but it wasn’t until the fire that they started to come out. Still, nothing has been done,” said O’Neal.

Some Albany neighbors are asking city leaders for action. They say vacant homes are inviting squatters and drug users to their neighborhoods.

Some Albany neighbors are asking city leaders for action. They say vacant homes are inviting squatters and drug users to their neighborhoods.

“Really sometimes I be afraid to go to sleep at night, and it’s more than just homeless people, it’s a lot of shooting going on 9th Street,” said Davis.

Many residents WALB spoke to said that on more than one occasion they have seen homeless people coming into this house. Residents say this house should be boarded up to prevent people from coming in.

One solution that neighbors in the community have suggested is if you see something say something.

“If they see someone that is doing something they shouldn’t be doing if they can talk with them and tell them to stop doing that. Call the police and let them know what’s going on,” said Davis.

O’Neal said that there are other vacant properties in the area, but this particular house stands out.

“In this community, there are only a couple of them on my block. But the one that sticks out over here in an area that is known that we got to do something about it,” O’Neal said.

In addition to watching out for each other, O’Neal takes matters into his own hands by installing cameras.

“I have cameras in my house, or fire systems set up in my house so that they can alert me to what’s going on. And cameras for my safety so that if something happens, it can be recorded for law enforcement. Some of the neighbors have come along with me to help install some of the cameras,” said O’Neal.

Part of the problem is that the local court has blighted and vacant homes on backlog, meaning residents will have to wait.