I was in CVS with my girlfriend the other day. She has been fighting a cough lately that has been getting worse. We were standing in line to buy the obligatory off-brand of Vicks and Dayquil. While waiting, she began having another coughing fit. The sound that she produces sounds a lot like a person who just had the wind knocked out of them. Her face goes red, her eyes tear up, her tongue sticks out–it is awful and there is nothing anyone can do about it.
People looked uncomfortable, it was loud and unpleasant to hear and more than anything just made me sad to watch.
Once it was over I took the medicines from her and told her she could go wait in the car, and I would buy the medicine for her. She walked out and I looked down at the two items in my hand, both of which made similar claims: relieve coughing and last long. The BudgetQuil had the bonus claim that it would relieve drowsiness.
Looking at both products I began to realize: these are for symptoms only.
There is nothing in either of these products for healing or addressing underlying health issues that might be causing the cough. They are only for symptoms: coughing and tiredness.
One of the cool parts of my job is that sometimes I get invited to interesting things. For instance, a couple of weeks ago, Transform Pontiac Now hosted an event where the leader of the gang task-force in Pontiac came to talk about the gang issue in the city. He had some interesting facts, good stories and interesting insights.
He spent some time talking about how gangs go about recruiting their members– mostly guys from 11-14 years old which usually goes something like this:
- Designate a house a “recruiting house”
- Set up game consoles, have good food available.
- Invite neighborhood kids over and let them know the door is always open
- Keep it constantly “staffed” with fun older people who will build friendships
- Tell the kids that this never has to end, they can always live like this.
- From there, slowly introduce the kids into the greater enterprise.
Really, this is genius and their missiology (and that’s really what it is) is outpacing the churches. We can either reject what they do off hand without giving much thought or credibility, or we can look at their methods and decide if there is something that we’re missing.
I talk to people everyday from all around the country who are struggling in the new post-recession economy that is emerging.
“I have thousands of dollars in college debt…”
“I have a college degree, but can only find grocery-store jobs.”
“I can’t afford to live anywhere but my parents house.”
“I feel like what I am doing isn’t making a difference.”
“I want to start a business but can’t afford it.”
These are common mantras I hear from people my age everywhere. But, it has not been my experience here in Pontiac. I’ll tell you why.
The Economics of Homeownership
I left college with a degree that I loved, but which was functionally useless to the world. I was paralized by the amount of debt I took on to accomplish this and wasn’t willing to take on even more for a master’s degree. That being the case, my poor employment prospects and negative net-worth really discouraged me when it came to the possibility of owning a home.
When I began looking for a house in Pontiac, I was shocked to find that my preconceptions weren’t accurate at all. With high vacancy and a crumbled housing market, the city is ripe for young people to buy houses at low cost, move friends in, and really revitalize neighborhoods.
To illustrate my point, the house that we purchased was a six bedroom, two bath, with two functioning kitchens for $11,000. We purchased it outright and never had a mortgage to take out. However, this was in a neighborhood with a lower income than other parts of the city, but our house in the wealthiest part of town will still only run about $40,000– a far cry from the $110,000 it would cost you in any neighboring suburbs.
The Economics of Starting a Business
Starting a business is always tricky, no matter where you go. But, if you’re going to start one, Pontiac is a great place to do it. The city has already proven it can handle and support businesses in the food-service industry whether those be inexpensive Coney Islands or middle level more swakny restaraunts like Downtown Grille.
Or, perhaps you aren’t looking to start anything in the service sector, but just need office space. Ottowa Towers, located just downtown, has many openings, is affordable, and easily accessible from the loop.
The basic fact and economics of it is that in business you have to keep revenues ahead of your expenses and with high vacancies and a needful market, renting or purchasing a place is much more affordable in Pontiac than it is in other cities.
But isn’t crime a problem?
The concern for anyone coming to Pontiac seems to always be crime. But I am going to drop some facts on you. They are sad, but I think are effective in relieving some fears.
- Most of the crime in Pontiac is black-on-black and drug related. Just as with any city hit hard by economic downturns, drugs are a problem in a few of our neighborhoods which leads to gang activity and its related crime.
- Since switching to Oakland County Police, crime in the downtown area of the city is down 35%, city wide it is down 30%, response time now is five-minutes and Pontiac has more cops per capita than the national recommendation.
These two facts: crime is largely drug related and the city is becoming safer, means that if you’re an upstanding citizen starting a business in downtown, you will probably never be touched by crime in the city.
You Will Never Be More Appreciated Anywhere Else
Businesses come and go in places like Troy, Rochester, Waterford, Orion. They live and they die without much notice sometimes. That is not the case here. Any business that comes in, any positive action is seen by the city as part of their comeback.
For so long all people here have heard is that no one wants to be here, no one comes here, no one thinks this city is worth anything. But starting a business here and/or moving into the neighborhoods is recognized as over-throwing those stereotypes and changing those attitudes.
Even if people aren’t able to patron your store, they will still drop in and say “hello” and “thank you.” While that doesn’t keep a business afloat, good will is important for anyone. You’ll get it here.
Pontiac, in many ways, is in rough shape.
In twenty years it has lost half of its population and the leak continues. Many people have never been to a place like that. Where I come from we are continually seeing new developments, new subdivisions, new restaurants, new shopping places and new construction.
That is not this place. Our skyline is instead noted for its emptiness, not its activity. Industrial buildings are empty, commercial buildings are at 1/5 their capacity, and with half of its population gone, every other house is vacant.
But where some see despair, we see opportunity. High vacancy means that prices are low. That is the only way we were able to buy a 3,000 square-foot house for $10,000. That is the only way that a vacant lot is $100.
The city is also not very good at cooperation. Churches, government, nonprofits, businesses –all of them are pretty bad at working together toward common goals.
In this way, we literally live in a place where a little light goes a long way. $100 will buy a vacant lot which we can use to beautify a dilapidated neighborhood with the help of other groups and people we’ve made friends with in the city.
When I was in college I’d always say, “How much can my spare ten dollars do?” The answer, in our case, is a lot. Here is what we can do with ten dollars:
- $10 is 1/10th of a vacant lot we can turn into a garden.
- $10 is 1/2 of a fruit tree that will feed a neighbor.
- $10 is 3 packages of hot dogs that we can cook for our neighbors in a barbecue.
- $10 is a yard of dirt to grow vegetables in.
- $10 is 20 packs of seeds.
- $10 is our website for a year.
So, if you’ve been reading about our work, if you’ve been out to see our work, or if you think that what we are doing is worth-while and would like to support us, know that it does go such a long way to loving on our neighborhood. If you’re moved to give, here is how…
Currently our funds are housed at:
Rochester Church of Christ 250 West Avon Road Rochester Hills, Michigan 48307
Checks can be made payable to Rochester Church with Micah 6 in the memo line
All donations are tax deductible and delivered to us in full.
If this is something you decide to do we would be very grateful. Our calling couldn’t have been answered without much love and support from friends and family who are literally all over the world.
This past week being Thanksgiving, everyone is giving away food. Groups have different ways of doing that. Elevate Detroit has a barbecue where volunteers bring food to cook on a grill hauled in a trailer. Transform Pontiac Now cooks donated turkeys, sets tables and invites anyone to stop in. We met folks who had pre-made meals who were driving them around and handing them out to strangers. Everyone has a technique.
So, when we were given twelve boxes of food by the Rochester Food Bank, we had to decide what our technique was going to be. As is always going to be the case, we decided that we’d be very intentional and very personal with the folks in our neighborhood.
Alzheimer’s is something that has been coming up a lot lately. This post is a lot of little stories and thoughts about the disease…
Black friday will mark a year since my grandmother passed away. She had alzheimer’s and, by the time she passed away, had lost all ability to talk, adequately used the restroom, and feed herself.
Alzheimer’s is a bitch.
A few weeks ago, as Halloween was approaching, my room mates at the Micah 6 House and I decided that we should do something for Halloween. The obvious conclusion was try to get some of our friends out here to hand out candy with us. A few days later, our friend Cole at Rochester College volunteered to bring about 40 students out for a trunk-or-treat. And that’s how it started.
Leading up to the event, the three of us printed out flyers and knocked on every door within three blocks of our house. We told anyone who was brave enough to open the door (we did get several people shouting, “I paid my electric bill!”) that we were going to be in front of our house handing out candy.
We stopped by the house of an old friend that I mentioned before. He answered the door, and asked what we were up to.
“We’re going to be handing out candy at our house tonight. We’ve also got some friends coming and handing out candy with us.”
He, in a moment of real honesty, said “You know, no one does that, right?”
I asked for some clarification, and he explained “no one trusts this neighborhood enough to let their kids out at night, and no one trusts their neighbors enough to open the door when someone knocks.”
“Well,” I said. “We’re going to do it!”
“I’ll bring my kids over, because I know and like you guys.”
We got the same kind of reaction from people all over our neighborhood. Many of them said, “We weren’t going to take our kids out, but we want to come. Is it okay if we don’t have costumes?”
Our friends from Rochester college pulled up, opened their cars and started getting ready to hand out candy. Kids trickled in, most without costumes, but all excited for candy. Parents stopped off, said thanks and walked back home with their kids.
In the end, we probably had the same number of volunteers as we did kids–close to forty. We had a good turn out on both the volunteer and kid front. It was a good time had by all and hopefully an event that we can build on in the future as we continue to establish our house as a place of peace in this neighborhood.