On Dowd Street in northeast Durham, some of the homes are badly deteriorated and boarded up. However, the people who live in the neighborhood say they like what they see.
Not only are the homes eyesores, neighbors say they are havens for the homeless and drug dealers. By boarding them up, the city has taken the first step in getting them torn down.
As a northeast Durham homeowner for nearly 30 years, William Thomas went to the city for help to clean up his neighborhood.
"You should have seen it three months ago," he says. "It's like day and night."
Scattered garbage still litters the street, but Thomas says what is missing are abandoned cars, old furniture and appliances dumped in front yards.
Workers collected 21 tons of garbage in the clean-up effort. They washed graffiti off of buildings while city inspectors looked at more than 100 houses for code violations.
It is a big job -- one that the city admits it cannot do on its own.
"The key here is to work with the neighborhood residents so they are aware of the process," says Paul Joyner of theDurham Housing Department. "They know what they need to do to sustain the effort."
The signs of progress may be subtle, like the new recycling bins or the speed bumps to help slow traffic, but to William Thomas, they are clear signs that the city is listening. They are a chance to restore pride to his neighborhood.
"The place needs to be cleaned up to make our children feel better about their school and where they live," he says.
While Thomas gives high marks to the city for its efforts, he says much more needs to be done. The city agrees. For now, the clean-up is a pilot program. If it works well, the city will expand it to other troubled neighborhoods.
As for the abandoned homes on Dowd Street, the city hopes new homes will be built in their places once they are razed.