Severance Neighborhood Organization urges residents to 'adopt a house'

We're all concerned about keeping the empty houses in our neighborhood safe and preserving our property values. Twelve streets in our city are now better off because residents volunteered to "Adopt-a-House" near them.

Volunteering to adopt a house means that you make a commitment to walk around the outside of an empty house in your neighborhood once a day to visually inspect it.

That way, if anything is broken or vandalized it can be reported to the police quickly, while there is a chance to obtain fingerprints and minimize damage.

Empty houses can be used for criminal activity. Recently a house in the Severance neighborhood was used as a "keep house" for breeding and keeping pit bulls. Someone rented the house, but did not live in it. The animals were neglected and the neighbors became aware of the situation when they heard barking and smelled feces.

Another neighbor reported an incident that occurred some time ago, where  two dogs were locked inside an empty house for weeks; by the time officials intervened one of the dogs was in such poor condition that it had to be put to sleep.

If you see that something has happened, call the police. If you believe the situation is an emergency, call 911. Otherwise, the number for nonemergency police calls in Cleveland Heights is 216-321-1234; the number for nonemergency police calls in University Heights is 216-932-1800.

Then be sure to make a second contact by calling or e-mailing (preferably) the city’s housing department. In Cleveland Heights, contact Rick Wagner, manager of housing programs, at 216-291-4962 or In University Heights, contact David Menn, building commissioner, at 216-932-7800 ext. 226 or

You should also contact the cities’ housing departments if the lawns of empty houses are not being mowed. Severance Neighborhood Organization is sponsoring the Adopt-a-House program and plans to compile a list of “lessons learned” from participants and to host a thank-you party for volunteers. If you are interested in adopting a house in your neighborhood, contact Fran Mentch at 216-381-5356 or with your name and the name of the street where the empty house is located.

Also contact Fran if you have a child’s drawing of a house that you are willing to let the Adopt-a-House project use as a logo.

Fran Mentch is the president of Severance Neighborhood Organization,

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Volume 3, Issue 8, Posted 1:44 PM, 07.07.2010