On Monday, August 14th, the preliminary findings of a North Camden based Decorative Board Up study were revealed at the national NeighborWorks America conference in Philadelphia. With over 40 one-on-one interviews on record and more planned as the study moves forward, researchers Lewis Bivona and Marcus Biddle shared up-close-and-personal stories from the people most impacted by Decorative Board Up in Camden – the residents and stakeholders.

“Paint over spilled blood. I’ll take that any day,” were riveting and powerful words from one resident. Another said Decorative Board Up encouraged neighbors to do their part. “To have a project where someone’s looking at a property that’s not theirs and dressing it up a little bit, well now I don’t feel so bad about it. I’m going to keep my house a little bit cleaner now or chop down the weeds.” Another added that the program makes the community look better, saying “For me, visualization of something that looks occupied and cared for is important from cleaned streets, sidewalks, or what people’s houses look like. Everyone should have a quality of life, and that quality is what the environment is around them.”

The preliminary findings focus on the qualitative impact of the program – the stories that are often hard to quantify with numbers. Lewis Bivona explained it best when he said, “This study has helped me see that the numbers can only go so far. Numbers can’t capture how people feel about their neighborhood or the programs that are trying to make their neighborhood better. Giving people the opportunity to really voice their feelings was crucial.” The study will continue into the fall, incorporating statistical quantitative data and will be shared with the public when it’s complete.

Decorative Board Up is a summer program of Camden Lutheran Housing, Inc. (CLHI), implemented in partnership with The Neighborhood Foundation (based in Chicago, and featuring the work of artist Christopher Toepfer) and the Camden Community Development Association.  The program began in the summer of 2014 and has transformed approximately 125 derelict, abandoned properties into cleaner, safer, more secure homes. The program provides summer jobs in Camden residents each year.