Archives for posts with tag: Detroit

I felt a twinge of guilt reading Cecilia Kang’s NYTimes article on unemployed Detroit residents trapped by a digital divide.

Charlie Cone advised us on all sorts of matters in Detroit including IT and internet.  Charlie was a retired Colonel who had helped set the Air Force on course into the computing age. During my final year in Detroit Charlie had suggested that our west side Salvation Army Corps investigate bringing internet into our neighborhood.  Agreed.  We began talking with those who could help make it a reality for the many families in our deeply under resourced community.  It stopped when our ‘moving orders’ came.  And it was not picked up by our successor.

A few years ago Michael Liimatta, who I met through our partnering with City Vision College, took off with internet access to underserved neighborhoods in Kansas City.  Michael is co-founder of Connecting For Good, “the only Kansas City organization with the sole mission of digital inclusion …to make sure our community’s most vulnerable members have the tools and the knowledge to use the Internet to improve their lives.”  Michael has moved on, now in Washington as the manager of HUD’s ConnectHome a pilot program “launched in twenty-seven cities and one tribal nation to reach over 275,000 low-income households – and nearly 200,000 children – with the support they need to access the Internet at home.”

Kansas City and many other places around the USA will benefit from ConnectHome.  Will Detroit?

Listen to last week’s interview of Michael Liimatta on KC public radio KCUR.


Flower HouseLisa Waud is a florist in Detroit who paid $250 for a house in Hamtramck.  This past weekend it was filled with 36,000 flowers.  Before the flowers 12,000 pounds of trash was removed.  This past weekend 2,000 people visited the house.  Now it “will be responsibly deconstructed and its materials repurposed. The land will be converted into a flower farm and design center on their formerly neglected properties.”

It’s called Flower House.  Last week the New York Times reported on the Flower House:

Flower House will be opened to ticketed visitors from Friday until Sunday. When the installation is finished, Reclaim Detroit’s crew will take down the house, leaving an empty field. The wood will be repurposed into new objects like tables, guitars and cutting boards …

The house itself is not salvageable. Like so many of the derelict Detroit homes that sell for rock-bottom prices, this one would cost more to rehabilitate than it is ever likely to be worth. A construction engineer whom Ms. Waud spoke with estimated the repair costs at $1 million. Paying this year’s property taxes on Flower House and its neighbor cost Ms. Waud three times what she spent to actually buy them …

When the lot is cleared, Ms. Waud plans to turn it into a seasonal farm to help supply flowers like peonies and dahlias for her business …

“It’s a beautiful ruin,” she said. “It’s charming, kind of scary and eerie, and beautiful in a dark way. To step into it is going to be surreal, and unforgettable.”

Yeah, I can imagine.

One last quote from Sally Vander Wyst, a collaborating florist from Milwaukee.  “”Our concept is post-apocalyptic spooky … we want it to look like the world ended and nature took things back within seconds.”

Alex S. MacLean writes

Cities are and will continue to be the greenest places to live on a per-capita basis. This is made only more striking when I fly over the suburbs and see the inefficiency of single-family homes. They are dependent on cars, for one thing, and are connected by miles of paved roads to single-use zones of office and retail developments. These areas will not fare well, if we begin to mitigate climate change through measures like a carbon tax.

Detroit’s rebound is just a matter of time.

Check out MacLean’s Detroit By Air.  It’s revealing of Detroit’s current state.  A lot of empty abandoned areas.  But, you can see that there really are signs for hope.

A phone by John, near Dexter and Chicago.

A phone by John, near Dexter and Chicago.


It’s burnt down?

One reader of Intersections sent a note today, that it had completely burnt down.  Rex Dame happened to be driving by and saw it completely engulfed in flames.  Some folks in the neighborhood think it was arson since there was another major fire across the street two days before.

It is our old Temple building in Detroit.  Which I describe something of in the love of life in quiet Detroit.

I have mixed feelings.  What good was it to anyone?  Abandoned in diminishing dignity.  But, the people who came there, young guys who played in the warped floor-board gym with water dripping or gushing from its ceiling, down its walls, freezing during the winter.  The staff who froze, and then in the summers sweltered.  The young kindergarten boy who came to our programs, who then one morning at home did a strange little jig and dropped dead.  The young people who crowded the building for activities, programs, just to hang out.  Teens and adults from Royal Oak Corps who came to help clean that nasty alley running north from behind the Temple.  Steve Diaz brought them.  Our cook, Mary, working in our woeful basement kitchen.  And the men and women and children who walked down those worn steps to eat a hot meal.

Buildings do have meaning, regardless of their grandeur or their grittiness.  They have meaning because of those who abide.  Our guests.  Our family.  Who are my brothers and sisters, my mother, my father?  I simply look at the building, and there they are.  As I remember.Dundee  4 13 2013 c

Dundee  4 13 2013 c


I like the freedom here … I actually like how screwed up it is. I work every day to help fix Detroit, but if we ever complete the job, I’ll find somewhere else to go.

The alley.  The building.  In the neighborhood where I served 6 years.  The picture’s from a year ago when I had some time to revisit while Gail was speaking at a youth conference near Detroit.

The man who likes Detroit freedom is Matthew Naimi and I know what he means.  It’s the way I felt during my days in Detroit.  I felt as if the city’s screwed up condition was liberating.

Sure, there were times it was absolutely frustrating.  Dozens of tires dumped on my lot, and before Mr. Clay could arrange for someone to haul them away here comes a city inspector who ticketed us for the tires.  The fight would have cost more than the ticket.  We paid the ticket and we paid the hauler.  I wonder where he dumped them.

What I found liberating was that there were no rules.  The rules don’t work in Detroit, East St Louis, west side Chicago, Gary and countless other screwed up places around the USA.  No they don’t.  And because they don’t, you are free to.  The screwed up places have been abandoned by the rule makers.  They make the rules, but no one’s playing by them.  So, they take their ball and go home.

Naimi understands the downsides of being in the largest American city to declare bankruptcy.  He also knows Detroit is a good place for someone like him.  Who sees SCREWED written all over a city.  And loves working every day to help fix such a messed up place.

Dumped tires.  Sure, frustrating.  There are worse things.

Gail really likes this quote from one of our long-gone Generals of The Salvation Army, Arnold Brown –

The frontline of The Salvation Army must always run through the agony of the world.

Where the brick wall ends in my photo is a small indented area which held our dumpsters.  One night I opened one to shove in cardboard boxes and as I did a rat jumped up, ran along the cardboard, my arm, down my back and disappeared into the night.  I don’t like rats, for eight years killed big ones with a stick in Chicago (another story).  I would have bad dreams about rats; some peripheral movements still put me into heightened alertness.  But that night, the lightness.  As it ran across me.  Filled me with wonder.

I think Mr. Naimi is the kind of person who looks for the frontline.  Read more about him and others in Hanging a Shingle in Detroit.

I think some of you are also frontline people.  These days, I’m looking for people like you, who look for the frontline.  If you’re that kind why don’t you drop me a note.

78,000? 90,000?

How many empty houses are there in Detroit?  A major effort is underway to find out.

My son John took this photo of an abandoned house behind Detroit Temple Corps near Dexter and West Chicago.  Stripped of its bricks like many other houses.

My son John took this photo of an abandoned house behind Detroit Temple Corps near Dexter and West Chicago. Stripped of its bricks like many other houses.



Stephen Henderson’s editorial in today’s Detroit Free Press explains as clearly as I’ve seen why Detroit has entered into bankruptcy and, if all goes well later this week in court, how it will help Detroit.

The virtue of bankruptcy is the ability to start over. If Orr [emergency city manager Kevyn Orr] is successful, Detroit will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change — for the better.



I’ve seen references to it but never visited Detroiturbex until tonight.

Lowell Boileau’s Fabulous Ruins of Detroit is still my favorite, but Detroiturbex offers tours, an index of locations, and a quick slide show to answer “what happened to Detroit?”

Who can answer that question.  But Detroiturbex offers some great photos and an attempt to try make sense out of what has happened to Detroit.

To make sense. Not an uncommon pursuit of peoples who have experienced cataclysm.

“Your holy cities have become a wilderness … all our pleasant places have become ruins” (Is 64:10-11)

Kevyn Orr.  Mayor David Bing.  Detroit.  Bankruptcy.  Many losers.

It’s almost artful how this three minute New York Times video presents the scenario we now know as the largest urban bankruptcy in America.  It even has a musical score with little Hitchcockian notes.  Gives me the shivers.


Sara Johnson, recently transplanted from Detroit to St Louis, today shared this NPR interview with Riet Schumack.

Riet is growing gardens in Detroit.  Brightmoor is on the northwest side of the city, and in very rough shape.  The Salvation Army used to operate a corps out of a building in Brightmoor but several years ago made a strategic retreat.  Now this transplanted Dutchwoman is there.Riet Schumack

Riet is not only growing gardens in Brightmoor but is also teaching young people gardening and how to market their produce to turn a profit.

Gardens.  Industrious children.  And a deterrent to drug dealing.  brightmoor-gardens-model-djpg-4fc911c4ab016e5d_largeWithin half a year Grayfield Street was clear of dealing, prostitution.  Dealers valued what was taking place with their nieces and nephews, and respected the transformation taking place in the neighborhood.  They showed their respect by moving.

Sometimes, can I say much of the time, the most effective way to deal with an issue is obliquely.  Not direct, smack, straight ahead, dead on.  Money, police, legislation, grandstanding by public figures creates a lot of noise and flash.  Results always seem discouragingly lean.

But a child shall lead them.

There are two types of power at work in our world.  Threat, violence, clout.  And a vulnerable figure bent over a row of string beans on a hot summer day.  child gardening 2

Check out Neighbors Building Brightmoor.

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