Not money, not appeals to the public, nor pleas to the City for help, nothing seems to stop the spread of rundown real estate in Memphis. It's already destroyed neighborhoods and threatens to destroy even more. The people who live in one Memphis neighborhood say their battle with blight is a lot like fighting a terminal illness, that no matter how hard you try things only seem to get worse.
Watching blight spread like cancer through Memphis' Klondyke neighborhood makes many of those who live there sick. Mary E. Hill, Klondyke Booster Club said, "It's very disgusting, you know, to come into what you are seeing today and nobody seems to be concerned." It makes them scared, too. Neighbors say dozens of nearby abandoned houses have become homes to drug users and their dealers, breeding grounds for crime. Alma Morris, Klondyke Booster Club said, "We're afraid, because we never know when they might come to our house, and we don't know who they are." Some call the vacant homes "demon homes," appropriate since many of them certainly have their demons, like 857 Mansfield, in the heart of Klondyke. Neighbors say they can't remember the last time someone lived there, but will never forget when police found the body of 17-year-old LeCheryl Henderson stuffed inside a trash can behind the boarded up house. She had been missing for nearly three weeks. More than two years later, the house is still standing. But there are thousands of other abandoned homes throughout Memphis, some with similar stories.
Last August, police found the body of seven-year-old Tyra Knox in an abandoned home in Frayser, across the street from where she lived. A few weeks later, a neighbor found the body of 24-year-old Lashonia Austin inside an abandoned home that once stood on Cherokee Avenue. She had been missing for more than a week. But while these high profile crimes draw the attention of police and the press, neighbors say lesser crimes associated with abandoned properties have them living in constant fear. "It just doesn't make sense. We are citizens and taxpayers and we have to live in a community like this."