KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Boarded-up doors and windows are an eyesore. They're a common sight in Kansas City, Mo., -- by the city’s count, there are about 7,000 homes vacant right now.
More than 100 of those are in the heart of the urban core, in the Historic Manheim Park Neighborhood.
Rodney Knott used to lead the neighborhood association. He believes Historic Manheim Park can change.
“We need defensible borders and the problem is that with every abandoned house puts a hole in that defense. It allows transients to come in and to hang out, and whatever they do. Sometimes it's just a place to stay warm but in many cases it's not," he explained. "It's very difficult to have a vibrant neighborhood when you've got that many holes in it.”
Knott told 41 Action News that in the past five years, 20 vacant homes in Historic Manheim Park have either been deconstructed or rehabbed. But on Monday, the city's Neighborhood and Community Services division reported 110 homes are vacant in the neighborhood, and another 17 are considered dangerous.
"Call the city, call the police and report any illegal activity and buildings that are open and vacant," he said while describing how neighbors can help.
It’s no secret; people live inside or do business out of vacant homes.
"If it's vacant, it won't be long until someone will be living in there," explained Rev. William Dean. He runs the Daystar Transitional Housing facility for men in the 3800 block of Brooklyn.
According to Dean, the issue compounds during the winter.
"It's been cold the last few days so you're getting few of them beginning to establish their winter housing,” he said.
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Dean knows homeless or transient people will find a place to stay warm. Sometimes that means kerosene heaters, smoking or even drugs. Many of these warming methods are major fire dangers.
His housing facility is based out of a home that sits next to a three story building that caught fire Sunday. Firefighters said no one was inside when the fire sparked.
However, Dean knows that won't always be the case.
"There will be fires. They'll keep the firemen busy,” he said.
That fire threat, and ultimately a health threat for the entire neighborhood, will only continue to grow until Knott’s dream of sustainable, functional communities comes to life.
Last year, the Kansas City Fire Department responded fires at 150 vacant homes.
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The hottest ticket on a Friday night for Kansas City teens is actually free. Hundreds of kids lined up to get into the Brush Creek Community Center for "Club KC," which is part of the Mayor's Nights summer program.