CLEVELAND - Cleveland's Slavic Village Neighborhood is in a battle to reclaim its luster.
However, a growing number of people illegally occupying condemned homes, also known as squatters, are so far proving to be at least one road block.
Cleveland Councilman Tony Brancatelli told NewsChannel5 he's calling on city hall, the public utilities, and law enforcement to help him remove and prosecute a growing number of these illegal invaders.
"We're going to be very aggressive in going after these folks, letting them know they can't stay in those houses," Brancatelli said. "We're going to work with our public utilities, like the water department, to make sure the water is off, that they should not be in there. We'll also be using our building department to make sure that they evict those people as squatters, because they should not be in condemned houses with no utilities."
Jean Wolske has lived in Slavic Village since 1981. Wolske told NewsChannel5 squatters have set up shop on her street, and are taking part in drug dealing, theft and other crimes.
"I'm very concerned," Wolske said. "This vacant home across the street here, I see them stealing bikes, and taking them over the fence."
Meanwhile, Slavic Village Recovery LLC is fighting back, funding the acquisition of vacant homes and renovating them back into being occupied. Slavic Village Recovery is made up of Neighborhood Progress, Slavic Village Development Corporation, Forest City Enterprises and RIK Enterprises LLC.
To date, Slavic Village LLC has acquired 20 vacant homes, with a target goal of more than 200.
Wolske is pleased to see houses in her neighborhood come back to life.
"It really is making a difference, getting these homes repaired, and finding families who want to buy them and live here," Wolske said. "We have to start somewhere in making this a better place to live."
Residents who believe squatters have moved into their neighborhood should contact their city building department and their council member. Residents are urged not to confront the people who are allegedly living in a vacant or condemned home.
It's up to the city building department to determine if people inside of a home are living there illegally.