Pastor calls on city to address blighted buildings, homeless: Blythe church leader addresses council

"I consider this a serious issue because – I know everyone's got to live somewhere, but this is bad," noted Greater White Rose Church Pastor Phillip Carbin during the Nov. 12 City Council meeting’s public comment. "The cars, with us coming out of church – the cars are all lined up going to do their little 'transactions' and my kids start thinking it's a parade. No, it's not a parade. But we, just as concerned citizens, we need your help. Thank you, and I appreciate everybody's time." (Photo by Uriel Avendano/Palo Verde Valley Times)

At the Nov. 12 Blythe City Council meeting, a local faith-based leader echoed concerns from the community on the impact of abandoned buildings and the correlating effect homeless transients have on the area.

Pastor Phillip Carbin took a moment during the meeting’s public comment segment to address ongoing issues near the Greater White Rose Church (212 S. 2nd St.) in Blythe.

“Where my church is, there’s been a lot of fires over in that area. And a lot of the homeless are occupying those buildings. And what they’re doing there – the smell of marijuana is so intense; I have small kids coming down to church. It’s not a good smell to me. And not for our – your – constituents,” said Carbin. “We try to train our kids to love in God, and things. We love the city and we like what we’re doing here – but there’s got to be something that we can do. Those buildings, right across (from the church), those are condemned. (Homeless) tore the condemned signs down and plugged into the city lights. Now they’ve got lights in there.”

Fires at abandoned properties in Blythe neighborhoods have been a long-standing and ongoing point of public safety concern for first responder agencies.

Past fires at abandoned structures in residential blocks have, in some instances, been attributed to transients by local law enforcement investigators.

“With little city resources available to address blighted buildings within our community, the city has been working on out of the box solutions to abate these problem properties,” stated Blythe Interim City Manager Mallory Crecelius to the Times. “This includes working with community groups and leaders to determine how, as a community, we can address nuisance properties until the city has the revenue to dedicate to building abatement as we did prior to 2012.”

Currently, the Palo Verde Valley Economic Alliance (PVVEA) – encompassing a group of local community leaders and county representatives who meet to volunteer time and effort towards bettering the area – is working toward how to best legally address abandoned properties in Blythe.

However, the legal and municipal processes involved are made significantly challenging given the lack of funding available. As previously reported, in 2012 the city of Blythe saw the end of statewide RDA (Re-Development Agency) funding towards addressing blighted properties around town.

“(A) committee came together and they’re talking about several different issues, graffiti being one in our community. But one of the other things is all of the abandoned buildings,” said Blythe’s Homeless Outreach Committee (HOC) Chairperson Valerie Hudson at a Sept. 18 meeting – noting the efforts of the Blythe Community Project, who’ve worked closely with the PVVEA membership. “I just want you guys to know, it’s not like nobody is looking at it (or) nobody is doing anything. There’s not much that can be done because the city doesn’t have the funding to demolish these buildings like they once did. And I think people don’t understand that. Once upon a time this city could put a lien against a building that was abandoned and, ultimately, take over the (property). And through RDA (Re-Development Agency) money have it demolished and clean the lot up. So many people look at our town and they don’t understand the process. ‘Why aren’t you doing it, why is the city not doing this?’ Well, it’s because the funding went away (about) five years ago – it’s been a while. That funding went away, that resource went away.”

The PVVEA is currently exploring beautification grants, along with potentially working with non-profits and discussing legal options with respective contacts, to address the matter.

“(The homeless) were coming across and taking our water from the church. And so I finally capped off both of them so where they can’t do it anymore. (But) now I’ve got to tell another pastor (because) they’re now going to his church and stealing his water,” said Carbin. “So, I’m just (here) to ask the council that – along with cleaning up the trash and things – let’s clean up the buildings as well. I know if we board them up, they take them back off. But there has to be something that we can do. Let the firemen use (the buildings) for training, burn them down if we’re not going to do anything with them.”

The next city council meeting is currently scheduled for Dec. 10.

“I consider this a serious issue because – I know everyone’s got to live somewhere, but this is bad,” noted Carbin. “The cars, with us coming out of church – the cars are all lined up going to do their little ‘transactions’ and my kids start thinking it’s a parade. No, it’s not a parade. But we, just as concerned citizens, we need your help. Thank you, and I appreciate everybody’s time.”

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