Cody Rouge community taking a hammer to blighted properties
To Kenyetta Campbell, each abandoned house in the Cody Rouge neighborhood is one more building that makes children fear for their safety. One more place a criminal could hide. One more place for trash to collect.
Each one, she says, needs to go.
“Our seniors and our youth – and really pretty much everyone – wants a neighborhood that’s safe,” said Campbell, the executive director of the Cody Rouge Community Action Alliance. “But for those two populations in particular, a lot of times it’s hard for them to protect themselves, and it’s dangerous walking past wide open spaces. Especially for kids, when they’re catching buses in the morning to school, it’s dark.”
She’s getting her wish granted, at least in part. After Saturday, 150 of those blighted properties will be cleaned and boarded, making the neighborhood that much safer.
It’s all thanks to a combined effort that began in August when Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom decided to board up 100 houses in the Osborn neighborhood.
After making the announcement, the Osborn Neighborhood Alliance, the resident group doing the Good Neighborhoods work there, raised its hand and asked to get involved. In September, 100 houses were boarded in the area surrounding Osborn High School, and the ONA volunteers were there.
This time, the effort organizers came to the community first, making a call to Campbell weeks ago, letting her know they wanted to come to Cody Rouge and that they wanted the residents there from the start.
Smart thinking, because the Cody Rouge Community Action Alliance has been working on understanding the blight issue for years.
“Part of our youth intern training was to identify local issues,” Campbell said. “So they went canvassing, and that’s when they noticed so many vacant houses that needed to be boarded up. So they started writing down all the addresses.”
The CRCAA had made phone calls to the city, and trips to Lansing to meet with their representatives. They’d taken a seminar about how to attack blight and held their own fundraiser to raise money to board homes.
So when Albom’s people called, they were ready. They joined with Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries and the Detroit Free Press to get volunteers on board. They also provided a list of vacant properties, information gathered in the last year by the CRCAA’s youth alliance.
The day is also part of the United Way for Southeast Michigan’s Make a Difference Day, a service day that will feature projects across the community.
Campbell said she hopes that having someone like Mitch Albom step into the community to get involved can be a catalyst for additional residents to step into the work.
“Although he doesn’t live in their neighborhood, he cares about young people in the city of Detroit and is willing to step up and be involved,” Campbell said. “Sometimes for some folks it takes certain individuals getting involved before they step up.”
On Saturday, the hundreds of volunteers will start convening at Cody High School at 9 a.m. Teams of volunteers will then head out to the different houses, all of which will be in the area surrounding the high school.
Whatever your skill is, there’s a job for you. Some people will nail up boards onto windows. Other volunteers, including the youth, will then paint them. They need help with yard cleanup, moving trash, planting trees, and people to help serve the breakfast and lunch. And they need people to simple encourage and cheerlead the effort.
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-- Krista Jahnke is communications officer at The Skillman Foundation. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.