A vacant building at 724 N. Homan caught on fire this morning. This is not the first time the city of Chicago has heard about this dangerous abandoned building, nor is it the first time the building has caught on fire. Action Now member Tanya Bell, who lives across the street from 724 N. Homan, started calling Alderman Walter Burnett about the building when it first became vacant in 2010. At that time her grandparents were still living in their home on Homan, where they had lived for over 60 years. When they died, she moved in to watch over the property.
Her first calls to Alderman Burnett’s office were to let them know the building was abandoned and that people were starting to use it as a drug haven. She says someone would come by to put up plywood boards, but people always broke through them shortly after they were installed.
“That vacant building created ripple effect in the neighborhood,” Ms. Bell said. A city-owned vacant lot a couple of doors down from her home became a spot to buy and sell drugs. She says that once people bought drugs in the vacant lot, they would then go to the vacant building across the street at 724 N. Homan to get high. Ms. Bell and other neighbors continued to make calls to try and find a way to get the building secured with metal, but Alderman Burnett’s aid said that there was nothing more the Alderman could do.
On November 21st, 2013 their fears were realized when a fire started in the building. After the first fire occurred, Ms. Bell traveled to City Hall with an Action Now organizer to search for more help. She was sent to the Procurement Office where she found out that the unsecured, open vacant lot where drugs were being sold, was owned by the City of Chicago. The vacant building across the street was owned by REL Financial LLC, who are based in Munster, Indiana but own vacant properties all over the West and South sides of Chicago.
The City of Chicago Department of Law and Department of Buildings have been going back and forth in dealing with the property. The Department of Law said it was slated for demolition back in March of 2013 but the Department of Buildings said their never received that paperwork.
Then this morning another fire occurred. Tanya Bell says she is “fed up” because “the problem of vacant buildings needs to be a priority for the city of Chicago. Community members shouldn’t be calling the city for years about one building and still nothing gets done.” She says, “I grew up visiting my grandparents on this block and there used to be families living in all of these homes. Now it looks like a ghost town. These homes should have been passed down in families for generations and now look what the foreclosure crisis has done.”