Newspaper will print your mess

CLEVELAND, TX Regusta Richard and her son were surprised to find a picture of their home published in the Cleveland Advocate newspaper. But the real shock came in the accompanying article. The family's yard was being called one of the city's worst because of litter, debris and junked cars.

"I just don't appreciate it," said Richard. "I really don't.

"Cleveland is on the verge of growth," said Vanesa Brashier with the Cleveland Advocate. "And if we are going to get to where we want to be, we are going to have to clean up our act. It is as simple as that."

The paper plans to spotlight different homes every week in an effort to encourage people to clean up their yards. Cleveland has only one building inspector and code enforcement officer, but officials recently approved the hiring of a part-time person to help enforce ordinances.

"Condemned properties are going to be torn down," said Brashier. "People are not going to be allowed to leave all the rubbish in their yards."

"I don't think it's right there," said resident Leslie Mikle. "It is not their business, what people have got in their yards. Is theirs."

Mikle says he has received a letter from the city telling him he had ten days to remove the junk from his yard. Mikle understands the cleanup effort, but says he needs more time. For the Richard family, the challenge is even tougher. Richard is 94 years old with health problems that make it difficult for her to even walk. Her son is also on crutches.

"I have been trying to get a few of my friends to help me until I can get up on my feet," said Cleem Richard. "Maybe straighten up a bit the stuff out there."

The Richard home wasn't the only one spotlighted in the paper's "Clean up your Act" article. A picture of a mobile home abandoned after a fire earlier this year was also published.

"It's not personal," said Brashier. "If it were my house and someone said it needs to be cleaned up, it would be in the paper, too."

It may not be personal, but it is embarrassing to the Richard family.

"They didn't come to me or say anything about it, about why it's out there and that kind of stuff," said Richard.

You can read more about the "Clean up your Act" program in the Cleveland Advocate, our Houston Community Newspaper partner.

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