Pasted on the entrance doors of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Camden July 19 were 13 photos of “ugly” houses of Cramer Hill.
Inside were cards with these instructions: “Vote for the Ugliest house in Cramer Hill. Since these houses have been in this condition for weeks, months, years, or in some cases decades, the ‘winner’ will be announced at a Public Award Ceremony Thursday, August 27, the Feast of St. Monica, the Patron Saint of Patience.”
“By voting for the ugliest house, we want to draw attention to the fact that many of these houses have become part of the landscape in Cramer Hill. Some have been here for weeks, but neighbors tell us one of them has been burned out for 22 years,” said Father Jud Weiksnar, O.F.M., pastor at St. Anthony of Padua and clergy leader of Camden Churches Organized for People.
He added,“While this contest is done with tongue in cheek, we are inviting people on the ballots to become involved in the established processes to address the problem legitimately through CCOP and other organizations”
Cramer Hill/CCOP leaders plan to use the Ugly House Contest to shed light on the real problems that abandoned properties present in the neighborhoods.
Burnt out buildings and boarded up vacant properties are a real danger and hazard, according to Father Weiksnar and others. They say many tools that can be used to address these problems, such as the Abandoned Properties Rehabilitation Act which the city has approved but has yet to implement.
Brother Jerry Hudson, CCOP clergy leader from St. Anthony, said, “We have successful housing development groups in almost every neighborhood of Camden, we have legislative support through the Abandoned Properties Act, we have countless abandoned properties, there are resources out there for this kind of work, you have people looking for homes, and you have the public support. All we need now is a champion in the city who has the courage and strength to stand with us on this.”
Community leaders plan to continue the voting on Sunday July 26, along with church members from Hope Memorial Baptist, to engage as many residents as possible.
“We were surprised by the excitement and interest in this project, our church members were really taking their voting seriously, it was apparent to us that this is something everyone in Cramer Hill feels strongly about and wants to see something happen” said Father Weiksnar.
Event planners are also lifting up the fact that despite these horrible eye sores there are many families in Cramer Hill that keep their homes in beautiful condition, and so with each “ugly” house voting card is a space to accept nominations for the Most Beautiful House in Cramer Hill.