LandCare Women Making a Difference in Hazelwood

Strengthening communities through vacant lot maintenance

Saundra Cole Mckamey surveys a vacant lot in Hazelwood. Saundra operates Settle Grounds, a community beautification program that maintains 50 URA-owned lots

Have you ever wondered who maintains all of the vacant lots in Pittsburgh? With over 27,000 vacant lots in just the city alone, it takes a coordinated effort to care for this vast amount of vacant land. The City of Pittsburgh owns approximately 26% of Pittsburgh’s vacant lots and the URA owns another 5.2%, or around 1,400 vacant lots. If you haven’t really noticed a vacant lot in your community, chances are that it is being well-maintained by someone. When vacant lots are routinely cared for, they can significantly improve the quality of life for the residents in that neighborhood. In fact, recent research suggests that maintaining vacant lots in urban communities can decrease crime and reduce gun violence. These benefits, among others, helped to inspire a new program to maintain URA-owned vacant lots.

Starting in 2016, Grounded began working with the URA to create the LandCare program. The LandCare program employs eight contractors to maintain roughly 400 vacant lots around the city. Contractors are selected through a competitive application process. Each contractor is awarded a bundle of approximately 50 lots within their community. Bundles are located in Homewood, Larimer, Manchester, Hazelwood, and the Hill District. The LandCare program advances the URA’s mission to invest in minority and female business owners, and currently has 100% participation by minority and women-led firms.

Over the past two years, Grounded has had the pleasure of getting to work closely with the organizations that make up the LandCare program. This month, we are celebrating women’s history month by recognizing two minority and women-led firms that are strengthening the landscape of Hazelwood: POORLAW and DeLoJe LLC. The women directing these organizations have been doing amazing work in Hazelwood, both with the LandCare program and beyond.

“[POORLAW] believes in stewardship and advancing the Hazelwood community. In order to advance the community, it has to look good. Looking good encourages jobs and businesses to invest in the community.”Georgetta Rue, DeLoJe Consulting

Settle Grounds: POORLAW & DeLoJe’s Entrepreneurial Collaboration 

Saundra Cole Mckamey is the Executive Director of POORLAW, a community-based association located in Hazelwood. POORLAW provides enriching activities to support Hazelwood’s youth by emphasizing workforce development and entrepreneurship. One of these programs, Settle Grounds, is a landscaping service that employs residents from the community to do lot clean-up and snow removal. Settle Grounds is run as a partnership between POORLAW and DeLoJe, which is a capacity-building consultancy run by Georgetta Rue, CEO. Marlin Jackson and Trevaun Hairston are the team on-the-ground, diligently addressing the needs of each of their assigned vacant lots. 

The Decision to Apply to LandCare

URA-owned lot in Hazelwood now routinely maintained by Settle Grounds

When Saundra and Georgetta were considering the best thing they could do to support their community, they both landed on one thing: the task of maintaining the vacant lots. Georgetta concluded that, “the list of positives as you can see outweighed the large amount physical work that the undertaking included.” They committed these goals for their work with the URA:

  • Maintain the lots and do it well  
  • Mentor others in the business of landscaping
  • Engage others in improving their properties
  • Showcase the community as a positive place for residential and commercial use

Vacant Lots as Platforms for Community Change

Settle Grounds stays busy keeping up with the maintenance needs of the 50 vacant parcels they maintain. Marlin and Trevaun visit each parcel on a monthly basis. Depending on the season, they cut the grass, remove overgrowth, clear debris and litter, and during the winter months, clear the sidewalks of snow and ice. Outside of the LandCare program, POORLAW works on a major pre-apprenticeship program. They view LandCare as complementing their work to advance positive economic revitalization in the community of Hazelwood. They use their work with the URA and Grounded to promote their shared values of self-determination, healthy living, and embracing change.

Loveland Map
An image of a recently cleaned vacant lot in Hazelwood. LandCare contractors submit before and after pictures of their work to increase transparency and accountability.

Follow along with the LandCare Network

The LandCare program utilizes Loveland, a web-based software that allows the contractors to report their work in real-time using a mobile application. For Settle Grounds, this app has benefitted both the management and outreach aspects of their work. Loveland allows the public to see the URA lots and monitor the LandCare contractors activities by viewing images and maintenance details. For Georgetta, the app has also helped her to share issues in great detail very quickly.

You can go to to view more of the LandCare contractors work and find out who is maintaining vacant lots in your community. Click here to view more images from the LandCare program and follow Grounded on social media to see highlights from the other contractors in the program!

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