FOX 8 Defenders: Abandoned property leaves unsafe conditions

New Orleans-- A tall, wrought iron fence across the front of Chandra Woods' Hollygrove home is there to protect her kids, including an eight-year-old special needs son. However, she says for six months even inside that fence her family wasn't safe.

"Any of us.. anybody who comes through my gate was not safe. This house was not safe at all. Six months was a long time," said Woods.

Abandoned since Katrina, Woods was concerned about a house that backed up to the side of her home. She said last July in the middle of night it caught fire. "Me and my kids was inside.. sleep. We came out, neighbors across the street got us out.. everything in flames," explained Woods.

The flames were so hot Woods shared pictures that show how the siding melted off of her home.

The Louisiana Land Trust, the non-profit group that manages properties the state has purchased, like the one next door to Woods under the Road Home program, says it cut Woods a check for damages in September.
Even then, the half-charred home remained.

"It just wasn't safe. It could collapse. It could fall on one of our kids.. cause kids always playing here all the time," said Alicia King, a neighbor. Woods told FOX 8 a tall wall of cinder blocks to a garage on that same property next door did collapse onto Woods' property and right in front of her.

"My son goes through (front gate). My 12-year-old daughter come through, and I come through and everything just tumbling down," said Woods. She said, "right when we was walking through it was coming down. We had a big old wind and rain, and it was a mess."

A portion of the wall that appeared to be in tact before the fire now covered the sidewalk that leads to Woods' front porch. Soon after, Woods says the Louisiana Land Trust cleared debris from the wall, but the mother of five wanted the now nuisance property demolished. She explained even before a second fire at the property in December, she pleaded for help. "Oh, eight or ten times.. no help.. even my neighbor across the street she called, and we didn't get no help," said Woods.

That's when the FOX 8 Defenders got involved. Two and a half weeks after the Defenders' phone call to the Louisiana Land Trust, the property was cleared. "I was shocked. I come out, I hear all kinds of noise, and just me and my kids.. just.. we clapping, we happy so I'm just glad it's gone," said Woods. Not only does she feel safer, her neighbors can move forward with their efforts to revitalize the small pocket of Hollygrove.

A spokesperson with the Louisiana Land Trust told FOX 8 that after the first fire it held off on demolition because a buyer had signed a purchase agreement on the property. That buyer requested that only the burned portion of the house be demolished so that the other half could be rehabbed. However, HUD didn't grant permission to demolish only a portion of the house. According to the Land Trust, the buyer backed out, and it wasn't until this month the entire property was cleared.

If you've had a consumer problem, call the FOX 8 Defenders and the National Council of Jewish Women at 1-877-670-6397.