Restoring Baltimore with some tough love

Two Baltimore residents sit on the stoop of an abandoned home.
CBS News

(CBS News) BALTIMORE -- There are 16,000 abandoned row houses in Baltimore. They often become dens for drug use or worse.

But one Baltimore resident is determined to restore charm to her corner of the city.

Carol Ott
Carol Ott CBS News

"I don't know what's down there," said Carol Ott. CBS News met Ott on the east side of town.

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"It's crazy, you are standing basically in what amounted to at one time a vibrant active community and now it's just a wasteland at the corner of North Bethel and Lansing street," said Ott.

Ott believes a lot can be said about a city with many vacant homes.

"It says no one cares, you are not worth of our attention time or money," said Ott.

Abandoned homes in Baltimore, Maryland.
Abandoned homes in Baltimore, Maryland. CBS News

She got tired of waiting for somebody to do something, so five years ago, she decided to publicly shame the owners by posting their names and photos of their buildings on her website: Baltimore Slumlord Watch.

She says she's had contact from the owners.

Two Baltimore residents sit on the stoop of an abandoned home.
Two Baltimore residents sit on the stoop of an abandoned home. CBS News

"They offer a lot of excuses as to why they can't fix up their property. They don't have the money, the residents will just destroy it anyway. If you don't have the money to fix it up, don't buy it. How about that?" said Ott.

Ott doesn't blame one person in particular.

"It's all our fault. We all let this happen, [a] generation of people have allowed it to happen and generations allow it to continue to happen. This is a city problem," said Ott.

She has been criticized for showcasing the worst of the city.

"I think in order to build something up, you have to tear it down a little," said Ott.

And that's what is starting to happen. Some of the owners she's embarrassed are cleaning up and securing the vacant houses.

"There is a lot of frustration, a lot of sadness and a lot of anger, but coming to these neighborhoods you have to see there is a lot of joy. I mean people are born here; they die here, all the normal everyday stuff. Right where we are just like any place in America," said Ott.

As Carol Ott sees it, this is a mission to restore a city with pride -- and some tough love.