Detroit neighborhood thrives despite problem with abandoned homes

'Neighbors Building Brightmoor' find success creating community, reducing blight, crime one block at a time

DETROIT - Neighbors said blight and crime are reduced on their streets because of their teamwork to clean up and build togetherness.

Neighbors Building Brightmoor began years ago with a youth garden.   It has grown into a very organized group of neighbors who meet monthly, tackle cleaning up vacant properties and growing as many as 30 community gardens.

"I've seen it come from a decent, you know, family orientated neighborhood and then it kind of went through a little war zone as crack and prostitution came through the neighborhood now it seems to be turning around," said Craig Reinke.

Reinke has lived in Brightmoor for more than 50 years and believes homeowners teaming up together is the only way to keep blight and abandon homes from taking over communities right now.

"The city government can't help up board these house up and keep these lawns cut and you know clean up the garbage so its you know, everybody has to do a little bit, everybody has to shovel al little bit of snow, rake a little bit of leaves," said Reinke.

Jaccqueline Adams Richey is raising her family in Brightmoor.  She has lived in the area for 15 years and said there are now eight vacant homes on her street that her family keeps clean thanks to the neighborhood group.  

"You have to take a stand in your neighborhood," said Adams

Adams also sees what Neighbors Building Brightmoor is doing as an invaluable lesson for her children.

"I have to say, they have learned bonding and the commitment and the togetherness of community, and the true meaning of community because Neighbors Building Brightmoor is showing that it is a lot of activities and things," said Adams.

Neighbors from Grayfield to Lahser and from Fenkell to Lyndon meet regularly  to coming up with plans to board up homes and clean up blighted areas.

"We don't just board them up we but try to make them pieces of art," said Bill Hickey.

Hickey said what they are doing is building community in Brightmoor.

"My wife Milley likes to say there are three ways to meet your neighbors. One is to walk your dog, one is walk your baby and the other is to dig a garden," said Hickey.

One empty home stands as a sign of unity in the Brightmoor community.  It is painted with a map of the neighborhood that also marks were all the gardens are located.   The neighbors also used blackboard paint to create a bulletin board area where they can post what's going on in the community.   One side also has a mural with vegetables. The home was painted with the help of some volunteers from the University of Michigan.

"A way for Detroit, or any city to flourish, is if their neighbors feel like neighbors and feel like they can depend on one another, if they feel like they are, they are working together on something that is bigger than just themselves," said Hickey.

"Take the time to be involved with your neighbors and before you know it you've got a whole community doing the same thing one block, one house at a time," said Gwendolyn Shivers, the president of Neighbors Building Brightmoor.

Neighbors said their ultimate goal is to see people move back into the vacant homes.  They said people are already attracted to their neighborhood because of the community spirit they have created.

Neighbors Building Brightmoor have a Facebook page to track their progress.  You can also see their website by clicking here.

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