Thursday, February 25, 2010

Does Hope Live Here?

Wednesdays are full of emotion for me. It's the day I've chosen to see the therapist to work through some of these feelings I have about my work and personal safety. I think I'm making some progress, but I still feel anxious about the circumstances that have brought me to these crossroads.

Last night, escorted by security, I went to an area of town a mere 9 miles from my home. A stone's throw, really. A 9 mile walk used to be a short training day for me when I prepared for the Breast Cancer 3 Day events. I'd have never walked in the area of town we found ourselves in last night and it surprises me how close these problems are geographically.

I was going to a facility to see a patient, but I still insisted on an escort because this nursing home is in a notoriously crime ridden area of town. To share what I see when I'm out on these visits, I snapped a picture of the building across the street from this place. What struck me about the photo was the beauty of the original structure. To be sure, one has to look past the waste and ash to see it, but it was there. A huge size, a big porch and an interior that I imagine once contained beautiful woodwork and intricate architectural details. (I promise, I didn't get any closer than the zoom lens on the Blackberry took me.)

In its heyday, Detroit was a magnificent city. Some Detroit neighborhoods like Indian Village and Boston Edison are still beautiful, but getting into these enclaves is like running a gauntlet. I was originally chased by strange men 1 block north of Boston last December. Pretty as these areas are, they aren't as safe as some would have us think. What a difference one block makes. My friend, Sister Jeanne, resides with others when she is in town in a decent Detroit neighborhood. When I leave her home, she tells me, "now when you leave, you have to make a right. Don't make a left because that way is Trouble." One block.

I've been to a lot of urban areas in the United States, Mexico and Canada, but never have I seen the decay and waste that I see on the east side of Detroit. I don't know how in the world the people who live there continue to do so, but they do. The stress of living like this is unimaginable to me and I'm thankful I'm only a visitor to that world.

Hope is the last thing I feel when I drive through Detroit. I see horrific destruction of property. To blame the inhabitants of the city for all of this property loss is unfair because they aren't entirely to blame. After the riots in 1967 and the white flight from the city, landlords were left with properties they couldn't sell. Plenty of them put a torch to their own holdings and walked away with insurance claims--leaving the rubble and ash for somebody else to manage. Certainly, in recent years, hoodlums and thugs have finished what was put into play. There is a definite demarcation of this destruction of neighborhoods. On the west side of Woodward Avenue, there are pockets of bad areas, but on the east side of the same road, it's hard to find a neighborhood that isn't scarred in some manner.

It looks like a war zone.

Finding the beauty in these abandoned homes can be difficult, but there is someone who does this quite well. Doing what I do best, following one link to another, I came upon Kevin Bauman's website, 100 Abandoned Houses. There are thousands of homes that are abandoned in the city, but he's chosen to highlight 100. His photographs are works of art, but the subject matter still saddens me.

Photo: Rudee K


Miss 376 said...

I would love to do these places up and bring them back to their original condition. It always amazes me how much difference a street either way makes to a community

jeannette stgermain said...

it would be great if Detroit could do what Peducah, Kentucky did -a whole neighborhood of abandoned drug houses they sold to artist for cheap and as artists moved in they renovated the houses (Patience-Please has told the story on her blog).
Don't feel bad about being sad, it's your city!

willowtree said...

thanks for the link, you're right - they are amazing photos, very sad, but also very interesting.

SkippyMom said...

I have lived in/around some sketchy neighborhoods before and my one solace be the decay of next door or 9 miles away is I could always return HOME to my sanctuary.

Yes it is sad and things do need to be done - but it if has been left this long it will be a long time before it is cleaned up and revitalized. Try not to dwell on it too much Rudee. I can really feel it through your posts and I hate to see you so sad.


Ruth said...

It is sad that beautiful things are left to decay - it does make you feel like no hope is around, but as SkippyMom said please don't dwell on it.Loved the idea of seeling houses to Artists.

Brenda said...

You and I live in the most dangerous cities in America. I don't which one of us came in 1st this year. Going with an escort has to be better than all the anxiety that would prevent you from doing it alone. Personally....I just wouldn't do it. My anxiety would be more than I could bear.
I have never gotten involved enough to know why these things happen. If we didn't mow our lawn for 3 weeks, the city would be out here and the neighbors would evict us. Abandoned buildings should be torn down, in my opnion.

Middle Aged Woman said...

There actually is an artist enclave, somewhere near Hamtramck. I've heard them interviewed on Detroit public radio. There are whole areas that are abandoned. If they could be bulldozed and cultivated, it would be nice to have some green areas near the city. I have hope that the new administration will lead to better things.

Rositta said...

There was an area in Toronto in and around a neighbourhood called Regent Park where there were also a lot of decaying houses, all Victorians, back in the early 80's. It was also very dodgy to go there after dark. I was selling real estate in those days and had a couple of scary moments. The neighbourhood has been totally turned around and most of those homes cost upwards of a million these days. Urban regenerations but the economy has to cooperate and jobs have to be there so people can afford to buy homes...ciao

Finding Pam said...

I am concerned first for your safety. I am thankful that you have an escort to these areas.

I will keep you in my prayers for safe travel to and from your work. I am glad that you have a therapist to talk with about these issues.

Urban plight is devasting to a town. In small towns you can be effective in running out the drugs and criminals, but I am not sure how you would do that is Detroit.

I think it is time to take our streets, towns and government back.

Rudee, you stay strong and don't let these evil doers win.

Stephanie V said...

It's true that all cities have areas which are a shame and are difficult to change. Vancouver struggles with all these same issues.

Like humans who are depressed, cities need some professional - and creative - help to get these areas healthy again. I like Jeanette's story of Peducah. People make all the difference.

Sandy said...

It's so sad. I will check out that link. I love old houses and have taken so many photos lately on my days out.

I have read reference many times to parts of Detroit and what has happened.

Sounds like LA during the riots and aftermath.

Anonymous said...

How sad this is. I have heard about the problems in Detroit. I didn't link it to the riots in 67.
I followed the link you had and those are beautiful homes. Reminding me of my "old dream homes" . Something Paul was never willing to do.. Old homes mean old plumbing.. Paul started out as a grumpy old man.. (I digress)
How sad these neighborhoods are so dangerous. Be careful! Glad you're making progress

Anonymous said...

So many of those old abandoned homes were so large, that to see windows with boards it makes one wonder what may be in the backs of those old homes. I am so glad you had an escort. The suburbs will be giving up homes and moving into the city into cheaper dwellings and then we have abandoned suburbs. It can be a vicious cycle. Stay safe.

Joanna said...

I was wowed by these photographs of abandoned homes. Most of them were at one time gorgeous big homes. I always think of how loved they must have been when they were new and what scenes they must have seen. I wish they could all be rehabilitated for homeless people who would care for them. It is so sad to see them decaying like that.
Rudee thanks for sharing. I'm glad to see you are talking to someone about your feelings.

Miss T said...

Very sad. It's going to take quite a lot to fix Detroit.

JS said...

I'll be honest, I think South West detroit has gotten just as bad as the east side.. and you are right about the one block rule... just look at grosse pointe.... JS

Rudee said...

JS--we don't often get referrals into SW Detroit. I'll count that as a blessing.