Outlaw Outreach (Pt. 1)
Detroit is an interesting place right now. As population leaves in droves (25% in ten years) and more and more people are unemployed (22%) the revenues and taxes to support a major city are just no longer there. This goes for things like fire departments, police departments, roads, electric companies, schools and many more.
This creates a critical catch-22. The people of the city are in need of greater support and protection with unemployment so high, but with unemployment so high the city cannot afford to provide these services as well as they once could. Additionally, since support services and infrastructure are so poor, people are leaving the city, but when people leave the city funding is reduced even further. This creates a compounding problem for the city of Detroit.
Recently, the state decided to begin honoring a law that says that people can only be on public assistance for 48 months in their lifetime. This means that 5,000 families, around 20,000 people are about to lose government assistance in the city of Detroit, including 1/10 kids in Detroit and Flint. Eventually, when a person feels like the situations are so dire in their lives, they decide the rules don’t apply to them any more. They become outlaws. And without funding, the city is largely helpless in keeping them from doing so.
The same goes for people who are trying to do good work in the city. Every week I meet some new person who is working in the city of Detroit for the better of the city, but many are throwing the law out the window.
“That looks like a good plot there,” one friend said, pointing to the front lawn of a house. The house was in obvious disrepair. The roof was caving-in and the inside looked torched.
“That one?” I said, making sure I heard him correctly.
“Yeah, the front lawn is a good size for about six boxes, this is a poor neighborhood. That’s a great place.”
We were scouting for new places to plant urban vegetable gardens in the spring, once the sun came out again. This house had been torched a couple of years ago and it seemed that no one had been here in a long time. The assumption now was that the house was one of the many properties owned by the city that no one wanted. It is however, technically, against the law to develop land on city property.
I have been on similar drives around Detroit where we were scouting out locations for gardens, homeless barbecues, even orchards. All of the places we settled on were technically city or abandoned private property.
“The way I see it,” my friend said. “We are taking these lots off of the cities hands. We will be maintaining them, mowing them, and growing them. We are putting a good, stable, healthy food source in a neighborhood that had none of those things before. If I am going to get arrested for that, or fined for that, I think it is worth it.”
I tend to agree.