INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - They're taking back their neighborhood one paint brush stroke at a time.
A number of near west side neighbors have been taking it upon themselves to fix up abandoned homes and graffiti-filled walls: by painting murals on them.
They can do this because of some changes to the law at both the state and local levels.
At the state level, legislators amended the Good Samaritan Law, to allow people to paint over graffiti -- or spruce up vacant walls -- on abandoned homes. That went into effect July 1.
The City-County Council passed an ordinance in August requiring property owners to clean up graffiti.
The ordinance also more clearly defines graffiti: property owners are allowed to leave public art or murals.
Julie Ellison is one of the volunteers spending an hour Wednesday afternoon sprucing up the outside of a home that sat vacant since 2008 in the Hawthorne neighborhood.
“This is something I’ve wanted to do for years,” said Ellison, who lives nearby.
With the help of Patrice Duckett, the Near West Coordinator for the neighborhood, a number of kids paid by the Kinney Group Inc. came to site Wednesday, along with other volunteers who live in the area.
“Haughville and the near west area has been hit hard with the home crunch. A lot of our houses became abandoned and empty. They started to deteriorate, so the residents wanted to do something about it,” said Duckett.
So they took what they’d learned from the organization Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, and from other cities, and now have completed 25 murals on buildings and over graffiti since July.
“When we put murals or pictures or designs on there, it takes away their canvas, so it’s harder to put a letter, or a symbol up there because it’s hidden behind the picture,” explained Duckett. “With us doing those murals, we haven’t had any extra graffiti on those murals or on any extra places we had graffiti.”
“Those houses just came back to life,” said Ellison. “They’re just joyful.”
Mark Lents lives right next door to the home they’re working outside of.
“It looks pretty nice now, before it was kind of rough,” he said.
“It’s a great example of a neighborhood, looking at what was dragging down the morale, and saying let’s make a difference, let’s change it,” said City-County Councilor Jeff Miller, who was behind the city’s new graffiti ordinance. “Graffiti can just make everybody feel the neighborhood is going in the wrong direction. When you rally around it, it can really make a big difference.”
Miller has been working with others, including the group Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, to address the problem of abandoned homes, as well.
“We've really been looking at, what's the cause of it, and how can we fix it?” Miller added.
He says beautifying a property goes a long way.
“It’s all the different steps to solving this abandoned housing issue; it’s so complex,” he added.
Keep Indianapolis Beautiful’s "Great Indy Cleanups" in different neighborhoods are set for October – click here to find out more.
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