As Detroit fights to recover, how can it leave its seniors behind?


DETROIT – Local 4 has been following the situation of 90 year old Ruth Brown. She lives on the city’s west side and her house is surrounded by blight.

In 2014, the house next door to Ruth burned and has sat vacant ever since. It is owned by the Detroit Land Bank Authority.

The home to the left of her is also vacant and is a favorite of scrappers. It is owned by a private owner.


At the age of 90, Ruth sleeps in a chair by the front door out of fear that scrappers will enter her home and she’ll have to wheel herself right out.

As one city official once put it “You can find a Ruth Brown” all over Detroit.
That means as the city uses federal tax dollars to tear down dangerous, vacant houses, the city can’t use those funds to tear down houses on streets that are already too far gone. For “Hardest Hit” funds to be used for demolitions, there must be a 70% occupancy on the street. That way, property values on the existing homes will rise.

In Ruth’s case, she is not in a hardest hit zone.  Local 4’s Shawn Ley met with the Detroit Land Bank Authority on Friday hoping to find some answers on Ruth’s behalf.

What we found:

Just this past Thursday evening, the home to the right of Ruth owned by the Land Bank was finally be placed into the city’s demolition pipeline. After asbestos removal, it will come down.
The other home is more complicated. It is a private owner, that owner owes the county back taxes and the county tried once to auction the home off to recover the back taxes. No one bought it.  It must be auctioned off again for a much lower price.

If no one buys it, it goes to the Land Bank and there is a better chance that it can be demolished. If someone buys it the likelihood of someone fixing it up is slim. Today we made sure both houses are boarded up and secure for now.

We also visited Ruth Brown to tell her that we haven’t forgotten about her and to give her this update:



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