Local News

Nonprofit Group Helps Clean up Durham Neighborhood

Posted March 8, 2000

— You might think one or two people cannot make a difference in the fight against crime. You will think differently after you learn how a group of people is working to clean up dangerous neighborhoods.

The Burch Avenue neighborhood in Durham has been plagued by crime and violence. Then a nonprofit group started buying up some of the worst houses. Residents says the neighborhood's turnaround is remarkable.

Emma Turner now spends time at the Burch Avenue Park with her daughter and the three toddlers she cares for. Not long ago, Turner moved away from the neighborhood because she thought the children's safety might be jeopardized.

"When I first moved here to the neighborhood, there was drugs around. The house I was staying in, the landlord wasn't fixing it up and I had to move because I was running a day care," she says.

The Burch Avenue neighborhood was once littered with run-down rental houses and absentee landlords.

Many of the houses are now owned by the Durham Community Land Trustees. The nonprofit group buys and renovates homes, then sells them at affordable prices.

Pauline Burroughs bought her house from the land trust.

"Everybody's friendly and concerned. They chip in and help when they need things done, just like a family, a little family," says Burroughs.

Community leaders say the 800 block of Exum Street is one of the land trust's success stories. Now the group is eyeing the 900 block of Exum Street, an area that has been troubled for years.

"We've had a lot of drug dealers on the corner, a fellow was shot in his house," says neighborhood activist Frank Hyman.

While there is more work to be done, the work that has been completed has changed how a lot of people, including Emma Turner, feel about the neighborhood.

"I felt safe coming here today," she says.

The land trust is also working in the Lyon Park and West End neighborhoods. To date, the group has purchased and renovated 97 houses in Durham.


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