Cleveland activist on mission to fight blight as city leaders vow to address nuisance properties

Published: May. 31, 2023 at 10:28 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - A Cleveland activist has made it his mission to find and report nuisance properties throughout the city, citing safety and past tragedies as his inspiration.

Ed McDonald started photographing and recording drone video of vacant, abandoned and otherwise rundown houses about seven years ago.

He told 19 News he looks into five or six per week.

McDonald posts his photos and videos on social media with hopes of drawing attention to the issue; he also reports his findings to the City of Cleveland.

“If this is my little way preventing something bad from happening in those houses, I would really like to do that,” McDonald said. “The main thing that got me kicked off was the Alianna DeFreeze case.”

DeFreeze was a 14-year-old seventh-grader was kidnapped near the intersection of East 93rd Street and Kinsman Boulevard in Jan. 2017. She was then sexually assaulted, murdered, and dumped in an abandoned home on Cleveland’s east side.

“I really want to work to prevent that from happening in my neighborhood and the neighborhood I care about,” said McDonald, who primarily focuses on homes in the Slavic Village neighborhood.

Addressing abandoned homes has been widely discussed at City Hall for years.

Many residents have grown frustrated with nuisance properties and what seems like inaction.

But the process can be complicated, in that many of the homes are owned by out of state investors who are difficult to reach.

It’s not uncommon for those homes to change ownership, which effectively resets the process of the city taking action.

“This is a problem that was here long before I was elected into office and it’s something that I’m willing to roll my sleeves up to find a solution,” said Ward 5 City Councilman Richard Starr. “We have to look at the current system we have in place and do an assessment and analysis of what’s going on.”

For more information on Cleveland’s Building & Housing Department, click here.