Xtina Lloyd wrote this article about Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's offers of hospitality and shelter to people displaced by Hurricane Katrina. A lot of the questions Lloyd asks about so many people entering Detroit at once are the same questions I'd ask for St. Louis. Generosity to people in such dire need is important, and both Detroit and St. Louis have been ravaged by the loss of residents over the years, but if we don't have many resources to offer the people who are already here, what resources do we have to encourage newcomers to settle here in the long term?
I'm also intrigued by Lloyd's description of the Repair-to-Own program, which the city of Detroit uses to get abandoned buildings fixed up and occupied. A low-income person gets a home, and the city has one less burnt out shell to deal with. St. Louis's Land Reutilization Authority would do well to start a program like Repair-to-Own, to encourage urban homesteading and reuse of the buildings they acquire. Neighborhoods like Soulard and Old North St. Louis are a testament to what urban homesteading can do for the city. Unfortunately, I don't think any of us have to look too far for an example of what the LRA's current hoard-it-until-it-collapses policies do to city blocks.
An Open Letter to Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick: Could "Repair-to-Own" help the displaced residents of NOLA?
by Xtina Lloyd
I never thought the day would come when I have something nice to say about Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Most of you know that Detroit is in the middle of a financial crisis, and Kwame's administration has been plagued with a variety of scandals and issues surrounding mismanagement. This morning when I heard that Kwame had a plan for helping the people in NOLA displaced by Katrina, I about cringed for I wondered WHERE in the world would this money come from?
...but not a dime of his plan would come from the city's cashflow -- here is what he's pulled together, check it:
1. Michigan Dept. of Community Health Region II Director has promised supplies and funding for an examination center to be established once the people arrived to do physicals and triage the sick/injured to local hospitals (St. John's, Henry Ford, Oakwood and Beaumont ALL have said they will take on the sick). Region II is also putting a call out for nurses to work at the examination center.
2. The Caldean grocers have signed up to provide food. Meijer, Kmart and other major food and clothing distributors have made him promises of food and clothing until they can receive government assistance. I am sure that DHHS (formerly the FIA) will expedite the processing of Bridge Cards (formerly Food Stamps) and Medicaid and help them with FEMA paperwork processing. So this means that FEMA will be giving money into the State's Medicaid fund to cover this. assured...
3. Kwame lined up 2500 hotel rooms at various locations in the city to be used for no cost until end of December. See, Detroit's hotel capacity is at 50% from October thru December anyhow -- so the hotel owners have said they can put out the space. There is only one drawback to this plan -- we have the superbowl coming up in January, so the folks have to be moved into housing or relocated once again.
4. FEMA told Kwame they would give him $200,000 to be used towards transporting people to Detroit. But he said in a live news interview this morning that he heard horror stories from people regarding bus transportation of these people -- so he is speaking with some of the airlines at Metro Airport, working on trying to get some fees lowered so that plane vouchers can be used to fly them up here.
2500 rooms. Let's say that each room holds 4 people only -- that is 10,000 people. Ok, Kwame -- this is a good thing you are doing, and I will give props to you for it. But, things to ponder:
1. Jobs -- we don't have them for our own people.
2. Are you going to push that these people relocate here? Or is that going to be a requirement for them to be able to come to Detroit? If so, what about those abandoned houses and the ones confiscated by the police? They aren't generating tax revenue -- fix 'em up and work out a way to give them to these people if they want to stay. Or get them on the "Repair to Own"** program, contact the builders unions and companies like Lowe's, Home Depot, etc. and get the materials donated. See if FEMA might give some $$$ towards this sort of arrangement as well.
3. I heard no mention about education for the children in your interview this morning -- with the recent closure of so many schools in Detroit, can the city handle such an influx of students? Since no mention of where the hotels are located, I am assuming that you are spreading this out so that these children can attend school somewhere in the Metro area or outlying areas within Wayne County?
4. Transportation -- have you made arrangements for these people to get around once they get here?
5. Protection -- you have just laid off 150 cops and more are to be gone after Labor Day. Wayne County and Oakland County both have sent today members of the Sheriff's departments and police officers from local communities to head to NOLA to help bring peace and to do search and rescue (i.e. go around and mark the dead on the doors & rein in the violence). During the time they [the displaced people] arrive, some show of force is going to be needed to help direct people and keep things calm at any intake/examination center. Who is going to do this? Or are you going to call "The Wolverine Queen" (*laugh* this is my term for Gov. Jennifer Granholm) and have her call up a National Guard unit to help?
I am not trying to belittle the actions you are taking in the least -- I think its wonderful. But Kwame, you have made no mention if this is going to be temporary or are you going to push for long-term relocation of these people?
...inquiring minds would like to know.
**More on the "Repair-to-Own" program:
The program was created in 1997, spearheaded by MaryAnn Mahaffey as another attempt at blight-busting city-owned properties. Participants are required to live in the home while the repairs are being done (either by the participant or they can have a contractor help). Unlike the now defunct Nuisance Abatement Program (NAP), the participants are only required to live in the home for one year. At the end of the appointed time, the participants can purchase the deed to their home for $1. A new list of houses available is supposed to be generated every three months. Applications for the Repair to Own Program can be made through the Planning & Development Department at (313) 224-6389.
Xtina Lloyd is the curator of Project X. Her creative work is online at starknakedanarchy.com. You can contact her at xtina.lloyd at gmail dot com.