Freedom House complains about property

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – A local non-profit is working hard to improve the outlook of its clients but say a problem next door is hampering their efforts. They called 12 on Your Side, after they couldn't get favorable results from the city.

A vacant building with a messy lot is the problem. The non-profit organization says it decided to call 12 for help when the problem started affecting money donors, its bottom line.

Code enforcers tag neglected property, and then the owner gets a violation notice. But when a privacy fence prevents the problem from being seen from the street, it's off code enforcement's radar until someone complains about a growing junk pile next to "Freedom House".

"Is that your property? And we say no, that's not our property. It belongs to the guy next door. It's embarrassing," said Melba Gibbs, Executive Director of Freedom House.

Freedom House is a transitional assisted living facility for men and women in rehab and on the rebound. Its executive director first complained about the accumulation of refuse September 2010, according to the city's own records.

"I know that they're overbooked with these types of issues but I just don't see any action from the city," Gibbs said.

For every pile hauled away another begins and Melba says what's hidden from street view, is seen from their second floor window when potential donors tour 'Freedom House'.

"We see blight, horrible trash and rodents, old play ground equipment, radiators, stoves, refrigerators," she explained.

Greenlease Properties LLC owns the building next to 'Freedom House'. It's been vacant since 2006. Only a few days after my calls to the city, we spotted the owner cleaning up. Inspectors contacted him. He has until Friday to comply.

"I wish he would come to the table about allowing us to come back there and clean it up and use it. We can get liability insurance and add some value to the building that's sitting empty," said Gibbs.

Freedom House envisions a courtyard area with recreation for its clients. But, Mark Harrell doesn't appear interested. He wants to sell it and says he will keep it clean until then.

We spoke to Freedom House a couple hours ago.  They're pleased with the clean up and remain hopeful they will eventually be allowed to use the lot. The city has no control over that issue.

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