Making it Good in the Hood

CLEVELAND, OH(WFLX) - Unemployment numbers are out and communities continue to fall victim to the foreclosure crisis. As millions of people lose their homes and their jobs, more neighborhoods are open to crime.

But one woman fought to clean up her neighborhood from drugs, gangs and violence.

"What happened to our streets is that people didn't take them away," Barbara Anderson, co-founder of Bring Back The 70s Street Club in Cleveland, Ohio. "We gave them away by hiding in their homes."

It happened in Anderson's neighborhood, but it's not happening any more.

"The focus now is to get back out there and take them back!" Anderson explained.

She gathered longtime residents with new neighborhood blood, and started Bring Back The 70's Street Club, referring to blocks 70 through 79 in her Cleveland community.

"This ain't your grandma's street club," Anderson said. "We don't do things the typical way, because we know the typical way won't work."

Signing up local businesses and banks, through donations and grants, this small band of people raised more than $186,000, boarding up foreclosed homes and taking over open spaces.

"We changed the traffic," Anderson said. "We realized there were just too many drug deals taking place in one specific area, and we knew the best way is to have traffic flow out of the neighborhood very easily while traffic coming into the neighborhood, more difficult."

"They started more patrolling. Then, we got the cameras," James Carter
club treasurer, and 16-year resident, said.

Club co-founder and 22-year resident Tereena Marks helped build this community garden. It's free for anyone who helps take care of it.

"I did come out and rope out all the plots, so I did a lot of labor," Marks said.

One way for the people here to get fresh fruits and veggies every day, and one way this club is changing the look and feel of their community.

"There was a lot of drugs, and a lot of fighting, and we as a street club have been able to eliminate that. These kids around here don't feel any danger," Joe Hughes, a 20-year resident, said.

"Everything here is good. On this street, there's no problems, and I credit it all to Barbara Anderson," Richard Benesky, a lifelong resident, explained.

Another chance for this community may come on the big screen, as well. The movie, Cleveland versus Wall Street, premiered in Cannes this year.

"I got a chance to walk the red carpet," Anderson said.

It tells the story of how banking giants foreclosed her neighborhood and thousands of others when the bottom dropped out of Wall Street.

"People just started standing up and applauding, and I was like, 'Oh my god! This was a real movie!'" Anderson exclaimed.

Now Ms. Anderson is headed to Germany, France, Switzerland and Canada for film festivals and to teach other people how to take back their streets.

"How do I describe Barbara? She loves her neighborhood. She has no intentions of going anyplace else," Hughes added.

"She's tenacious. You suggest something to her and she puts her heart into it," Carter said.

"She has three lives. She's all over the place," Marks adds.

"She has the eyes and ears of everything going on here," Mark Gant, a 15-year resident, described.

A true street fighter who didn't give up on her street.

The club's next project is to raise $60,000 to turn a worn out warehouse into a community center with after school training and place to get second-hand clothes and furniture.

Barbara says what she did, anyone can do. First, research community development organizations and local foundations. Many cities also have grants for people trying to clean up their neighborhoods.

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