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Fighting the Blight

I haven’t really talked much about the problems in Detroit. The unemployment. The crime. The crazy city politics.

Am I avoiding it on purpose? Am I afraid to talk about it?

No. I just feel the negative aspects, the problems of Detroit, are well documented worldwide. When we told our neighbors in England that we were moving to Detroit they brought over this article from the Sunday magazine in the London Times, America’s darkest fear: to end up like Detroit. The neighbors meant well.

Now, I’m talking about a problem.

One big problem in Detroit are the abandoned homes. These homes are always dangerous, always an eyesore, and many times taken over by drug dealers.

How many abandoned homes are in Detroit?

There is no exact number. Tens of thousands was the closest I could pin point it. More homes are being abandoned every day. One statistic I found was that there are 44,000 empty homes in Detroit. But are empty and abandoned the same? I don’t know. I don’t think anyone is counting these derelict houses anymore.

So, what can we do?

As I mentioned in Actions Speak Louder Than Words, we volunteered last week. We helped fight the blight. Working with Motor City Connect and Motor City Blight Busters we helped tear down these homes, clear these lots.

Motor City Blight Busters (MCBB) is a community based non-profit organization that was founded in 1988.

It is Motor City Blight Busters’ primary mission to help stabilize, revitalize and rejuvenate the socio-economic plight of the city of Detroit. Our aim is to restore the city to the state of great prominence it once held.

We feel that the achievement of this objective hinges on our ability to instill our unwavering sense of pride (for the city) in each and every one of its residents. For only through such pride, can the long desired standard of excellence be re-established and maintained.

John J. George, the founder & president of Motor City Blight Busters said, “when we do these projects crime goes down, property values go up, and community spirit soars.” And I believe him.

My husband and I had fun, met new people, and made a difference. Yes, it was hard work. We sweated and afterwards we smelled a bit. The next day I was sore. All the volunteers worked hard with passion and determination. And I can tell you this, our spirit soared.

What is the payoff?

Yesterday, I took a ride by myself back to the site. We only worked on Wednesday and I wanted to see how much progress they made on Friday and Saturday. I wanted to see what it looked like now.

I stood in front of one home that was demolished. In the house behind me, two boys appeared on the porch. They lived across the street from these abandoned homes. They were probably curious why this crazy lady was there all by herself, looking at…well, looking at nothing.

Those two boys won’t have to live across the street from drug dealers. Those two boys won’t go exploring these dangerous homes with glass strewn all over. Hopefully soon, those two boys will have a nice view from their porch. That is the payoff.

(You can also read about the whole week of Blood, Sweat, & Gear in Actions Speak Louder Than Words or about me giving blood for the cause in Blood, Life, and Beer.)

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Reader Comments (9)

Blight Busters really is an incredible experience. On Friday another group of us took down the house next to this one. It's overwhelming thinking about what a difference it would make if everyone from the suburbs spent 1 day a year helping tear down these vacant homes. Glad the experience was memorable for you as well!

August 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterErica VandenBerg

It sounds like you had a very rewarding experience. Maybe I'll be available to help next year.

August 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTodd


I'm so glad I popped in and read this. I joked as I showed up at the site on Saturday when they were just about to pull the supports out from under the roof, that I often show up just as the work is almost finished. But truly, we worked hard. And as a Social Media person, it's easy to forget that sometimes life exists outside of your monitor.

When I drove away Saturday, I left really inspired to become more involved. I said, "It always feel so good when you pitch in, why don't you do it more?" But you DO forget. So quickly. Which is why posts like this are wonderful, because reading about the two boys brought it all back.

Thanks, Becks.


August 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJen Wright

when I read stories, like this one, it always makes me feel so hopeful. It just takes people caring enough and actually doing something about a problem, it makes a difference.I'm going to let this insprire me to make a difference thankyou

August 4, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjoanne

I love your idea of everyone helping out for one day. I don't think people realize how much can happen in a short period of time if people work together. Thanks for your hard work!

I think you would have enjoyed it.

I wish I was there to see the house coming down! It's easy to forget how helping others makes us feel better. I, and I'm guessing you and Erica would agree, got so much more out of this than we put into it.

Thank you! I'm inspired that you're inspired! Go out there and make a difference, even the smallest things help.

August 4, 2009 | Registered CommenterBecks Davis

Thanks for this post. I never want to give up hope for Detroit. I have photo's of my mother's childhood in the city. It was truly a grand place with amazing houses. She walked to the ball park and played on the street, I have the snapshots to prove it! Last time I went to try to find the house she grew up in, I could not find it. I'm not sure if it's burned down or was just unrecognizable.

Creativity, community and industry are a few ingredient I think will help the city come back to life. Seems like you are dishing up a healthy heap of two of the tastiest ingredients!

August 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRachelZCornell

Friday was a great experience, to spend a day doing something that is positive for our city. Nothing better! The kids were the best, doing things they had never done before, learning how to work together with people they did not know, working as a team, and seeing results of their efforts. Everyone is part of the difference!

August 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChris

I'm not giving up hope on Detroit either. Thank you for your kind words.

I wish I could have been there all three days! I was amazed at how well everyone just came together to get the work done.

August 5, 2009 | Registered CommenterBecks Davis

i was born and raised in Detroit, but came to Minnesota in 01 n i miss the place. I will always love the place n will always have faith in our city. One day, when i get rich ( i hope ) i will save our city. I swear to the the lord Jesus.

March 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermyke

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