ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- In the Lincolnville neighborhood in St. Augustine, a man has just purchased 96 St. Francis Street. It’s a known drug house by police, but that one man thinks it can be so much more and something better for this neighborhood.
Blake Souder describes the house he and his family just bought as an absolute disaster. He said he has watched drug activity at the house next to his family's two houses in Lincolnville for years.
"When it was listed for auction, we knew we had to go for it," he said.
So last week, he and his family bought the crumbling house.
"There's just total filth on the inside," he said.
Tuesday, with police on hand, Souder showed what a known drug house looks like.
"There's no electricity. No running water," he said. "You're looking at a lot of clothes, furniture." Mounds of dirty clothes were strewn throughout the house.
"You can see here, Jess, where the roof is failing," Souder said as rain fell through the opening. "I just saw a huge rat. People were living in here. Watch out for this huge hole in the floor."
Commander Jennifer Michaux with the St. Augustine Police Department went into the house as well. It wasn't her first time inside. She’s been responding to this place since the 1990s. Tuesday, she pointed out crack pipes and a box full of lighters.
She said the St. Augustine Police responded to this house in 54 times in the last two years.
"There’s been known drug activity in this house due to residents staying here and people coming and going," Michaux said.
"We purchased it at a tax deed auction," Souder explained.
The current owner had failed to pay his property taxes, according to Souder.
He and his family plan to demolish the house and build a new house on the property.
"It was an opportunity for us to improve our end of the block here but also to improve the neighborhood," Souder noted.
"I’m excited its going to be torn down because it’s going to stop people from going in and potentially putting other people and officers in harm’s way," Michaux added.
Amidst the filth and drug paraphernalia, Souder found a high school and college diploma, old family photos, and lots of books. They are signs of an educated person, whose life was swallowed up by drugs like the cobwebs have engulfed the walls of this house.
"Walking through that house opens your eyes and you see the devastating effects drugs have on a community and on an individual," Souder added. "It’s heartbreaking."