Highland Park's 'Mama Shu' creates place where neighborhood children can study

Shu Harris hopes to open homework house by spring

HIGHLAND PARK, Mich. – A Highland Park woman had a dream to build a place for neighborhood children to study, and what's being created is life-changing.

Over the past couple years, Local 4 has shared the story of Shu Harris, or "Mama Shu." She's working to rebuild her neighborhood along Avalon Street.

Through Harris' work, the street has been cleaned up, programs have been started to help families and she has purchased 31 homes that were abandoned and trashed, and she's in the process of rehabbing them.

One of the homes is being turned into a homework house for the children. Local 4 Defender Karen Drew stopped by to see the progress.

When most people saw a rundown home, Harris saw potential in the building.

WATCH: Heart of Detroit meets Mama Shu

"Over here is a study space and room for a micro library in this small space," Harris said. "Children will be able to eat in different spaces."

It's been a project in the works for two years. Volunteer group Detroit Habitual has been donating time and expertise along the way.

"This place is looking good," said Renee, a volunteer with Detroit Habitual. "We're putting our heart and soul (into it) and working on it like it's their own house."

"It was in rough shape," said Mike Stahl, a Detroit Habitual volunteer.

Stahl is recently retired and has spent countless hours at the home, which needed plenty of work.

"The kids need a more positive environment," said Davis Cox, a Detroit Habitual volunteer and retired Cranbrook teacher. "As an educator, the volunteer work I do is important for providing physical spaces that are healthier for kids to work in."

Once complete, the home will help Highland Park children in the neighborhood by providing space to study and make food. There will also be a music studio for children interested in learning music or developing a hobby.

"This is our handicap accessible bathroom," Harris said.

She didn't forget the basics. There are plenty of bathrooms for showers.

The future is bright along Avalon Street, thanks to Harris and her love of the neighborhood. She said she's still trying to raise funds to complete the homework house. She wants it to open in the spring.

Click here if you or your company want to donate.

About the Authors:

Karen Drew is the anchor of Local 4 News First at 4, weekdays at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. She is also an award-winning investigative reporter and part of the Local 4 Defenders team.

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.