‘I could go somewhere else but, this is my home’: Relationship between blight and poverty

Published: Aug. 10, 2022 at 10:31 PM EDT
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SPARTANBURG, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - A new study by a research group of students and staff at Wofford College is looking into how living next to abandoned and condemned properties impacts the quality-of-life in three Spartanburg County neighborhoods.

There are 48 properties condemned in the county in Una, Saxon and Arcadia, however, the researchers believe there could be hundreds of abandoned and blighted properties that have not yet been condemned.

Some call it Spartanburg County’s “USA”-- Una, Saxon and Arcadia. Una Fire Chief Jeff Hadden says he gets a lot of calls to abandon buildings. He gave Fox Carolina a tour of a few spots.

“Drug overdoses, you know a lot of crime, more people are staying in those buildings that are not supposed to be. The neighbors have made several complaints because of fires” he said while showing us condemned businesses in Saxon.

There are several condemned properties too, some damaged by fire, some used as shelter for the unsheltered and others used as what Chief Hadden calls a breeding ground for crime.

“If you drive across town you’ll see all these nice streets and stuff. You don’t see that here,” said lifelong Saxon resident James Douglas Dills.

Dills has lived in Saxon all his life, he’s seen it change, and not for the better.

“I could go somewhere else but this is my home. I have a nice home in a bad neighborhood” said Dill.

There’s a thin line between poverty and blight. Census data shows 42% of the area is below the line of poverty.

“People feel like they’re lacking quality education, quality health care, quality housing and they really just feel neglected” said Wofford College student researcher, Sarah Buckmaster.

That’s what the Wofford students found through their research. The study started a year ago aiming to gauge the number of abandoned properties. Through surveying more than 200 residents, it turned into much more.

“It’s really become a study of poverty of access of resources,” said Dr. Alysa Handdelsman, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Wofford College

Their work found 48 properties condemned by the county, but many more that could meet the requirements. However for some, it might be all they have.

“If I report my home, and it becomes condemned, where do I go after that? Well, I’m homeless” said Buckmaster.

The research team is working with city and county officials to figure out the best steps for how to address these issues. They’ve also gathered information from residents in the communities about what they’d like to see changed.

They’ll present all the findings Thursday August 11th, at 6 o’clock at the Una Fire Station on Haynes road in Spartanburg. They’re encouraging everyone in the community to come out.