By Valerie D. Lockhart
SUN EXECUTIVE EDITOR
As Beatrice Williams sits on the porch of her east side Detroit home, she shakes her head in disappointment and cries out, “They’ve forgotten about us!”
The 81-year-old resident has been living off of Kercheval for over 50 years and recalls when her block was full of homes bustling with children and friendly neighbors.
Pointing down the street, she says, “Look! There are only two homes left on my block, and they’re thinking about moving too. Besides that empty playground, there’s no one left. My kids want me to move too, but I’m too old and stubborn to give up. I just want whoever is mayor to not forget about the people in the neighborhood. Instead of building in downtown Detroit, build something here. I’d like to see my neighborhood come back to life, before I die.”
Williams is not alone in calling for action to take place in Detroit’s neighborhoods. Lainie Duncan would also like to see things change in her northwest side neighborhood.
“Abandoned homes outnumber occupied homes on my block,” said Duncan. “It’s terrible to walk out of your said Duncan. “It’s terrible to walk out of your front door only to be faced with blight. People pull up and dump tires and trash at the burnt out home across the street from me. It takes forever for the city to tear down these burnt out homes. When they do tear them down, we’re left with a weed sewn lot. It’s up to the few neighbors left to cut the grass or turn it into a garden. When they tear down a house, they should replace it with a new one. Some of the houses, like that one down the street, can be renovated. Why not allow someone homeless fix it up and live in it, since they’re going to squat there anyway. Give them some incentives to fix it up, and then just give them the deed.”
Vacant rundown homes, blight, weed strewn lots, crime, employment opportunities, quality public education, and high insurance and water rates are some of the problems residents would like to see resolved.
“Everyone’s talking about change, but no one’s doing anything to bring about change,” says Anthony Stubbs, of Detroit. “I’m tired of hearing all of the campaign promises. Some of them talk a good game, but when they’re voted in they do nothing but collect a paycheck. I don’t know whose best to run the city. I haven’t seen anything change in the last four year’s (Mayor Mike) Duggan has been in office. And, my insurance rates are still high, so Coleman Young ain’t handling business in Lansing as well. I’m just sick of these career politicians getting paid off of the residents and not doing anything to help us to get paid too.”
James, a 29-year-old ex-felon, has been searching for opportunities to get paid as well. He’s been denied employment opportunities because of a criminal offense he was convicted of at 18 years old.
“I paid for my crime by serving three years in prison, and they’re still punishing me today,” he explained. “I want someone to help ex-felons to get their records expunged after so many years have past. I learned my lesson and haven’t committed a crime, since being released. But, it’s hard for me to find a job or get housing in my own name. I have to depend on my girl to keep a roof over my head. The system is designed to make someone give up and go back to a life of crime. It’s not fair.”
Meanwhile, Williams is hoping one of the elected officials can help restore fairness in her neighborhood.
“I need our leaders to stand up and take the lead,” she said. “Do the right thing and come to my neighborhood. Be politically correct. Don’t forget about me or I’ll forget your name on election day.”