Archive for the category “Cities”

Justice reclaims the urban wasteland … in Detroit

detroit blightMultiplying justice in the city requires us to attack the problem of urban blight. Evil haunts abandoned blocks of decaying buildings — and victimizes helpless souls too poor to flee the war zone.

As the article below notes, “blight creates an apocalyptic cityscape, the perfect setting for other social woes — a place where broken-windows theory is no longer hypothetical. It is a literal embodiment of collapsing communities. And when property is allowed to deteriorate so dramatically, a culture arises in which property rights are trampled. Thieves and addicts strip the buildings of metals, sometimes electrocuting themselves in the process. Blighted buildings offer an ideal refuge for drug dealers, pimps, and criminals on the run.”

Summarizing: In Detroit’s 139 square miles, for example, the Dangerous Building Inventory lists 38,779 structures. The city’s bureaucracy has failed to address the problem and continually thwarts attempts to tear down abandoned buildings. Innovative partnerships, however, like Detroit’s Blight Authority, are arising from private, artistic, and charitable sectors and demonstrating that free-market principles can succeed where government fails.

For example, the article says, Tyree Guyton’s Heidelberg Project uses discarded objects and paint to transform abandoned buildings into open-air art installations. Bill Pulte, whose grandfather founded Pulte Homes, organized a massive, privately funded demolition effort that knocked down ten blocks of blighted houses in ten days and served as the launching point for the Detroit Blight Authority, a nonprofit group working alongside the mayor’s office, the Kresge Foundation, DTE Energy, Michigan Caterpillar, and others to launch the most ambitious anti-blight effort Detroit has ever seen.

Jillian Kay Melchior’s article concludes: “The Blight Authority is a source of hope in an otherwise troubling urban setting. If it succeeds, this private effort may change not only Detroit’s physical landscape but also its political one. Detroit’s blight problem is a tangible lesson about the limits of government. Like other efforts before it, the Blight Authority demonstrates that real power for change lies with private citizens who understand those limits — and then get to work themselves.”

Read this persuasive, encouraging article by clicking here.
Get involved with reclaiming the city through Urban Onramps or The Rebuild Initiative.

Loving the city’s loners, one apartment at a time

A young couple in Phoenix, Arizona, discovers God’s call on their lives when the roof falls in on them financially. Chris and Bethany Priebe crossed paths with a ministry called Apartment Life and found themselves on the cutting edge of a new initiative to break through the “loner culture” in Phoenix and live out the love of God among that city’s lonely apartment dwellers.

They believe Christians’ greatest ‘mission’ in Phoenix may be relationship.

Katie Holland writes for This Is Our City:

In order to love one’s neighbors, one must first know who they are—a teaching that’s much easier said than done in a place like Phoenix. … Newcomers drawn in by the warm sunshine, abundant palm trees, and stunning mountains also encounter the independent spirit of the Southwest, where friendliness is oft regarded with suspicion. Many transplants who have left family behind find it difficult to adjust to a city where the scorching heat drives people inside air-conditioned homes and away from public spaces.

Many transplants come for school. Residents at the Sage Stone apartment complex in the suburb of Glendale come for a large medical college nearby. Renters there often stay for a window of time until they are assigned medical residency elsewhere, return home, or purchase a home in one of Phoenix’s many suburbs. Amid this heightened transience, neighbors are temporary, stacking the odds even further against community.

But one couple at Sage Stone has a vision for something different, and they think Christians should make it a reality. They wonder what would happen if Christians in Phoenix met new residents with a friendly smile and an invitation into relationship. Is it possible they could upend Phoenix’s loner culture?

Meet the Priebes

Chris and Bethany Priebe are giving it their best shot. The couple met at youth group in northwest Phoenix. … Once married, they moved into an apartment where work and church kept them from knocking on the door next to theirs. They dreamed of moving into a home where they could throw block parties and invite neighbors over. But even after moving, church, family and jobs perpetuated the phrase, “Tomorrow—we’ll do that tomorrow.”

Along with most other Phoenix residents, in 2007 the Priebes watched the value of their home begin to plummet. They then learned the funding for Bethany’s nonprofit job was ending. As they prayed about how to move forward with no home equity and an upcoming job loss, Bethany and Chris learned they were pregnant with twins. At 22 weeks, Bethany was hospitalized for six weeks and put on complete bed rest, with Chris sleeping on an adjacent makeshift cot. Faced with the risks to their babies as well as climbing medical bills, Chris thought, Maybe God is getting our attention. We should look at how we said we wanted to live.

Read the full story by clicking here.

Sowing hope among the tulips

The tulips of Holland, Michigan, provide “a festive frame to a poster-perfect community” that in 2009 was rated the second happiest city in the nation. But that was three years ago.

Leslie Leyland Fields reports for This Is Our City:

Today, three farmers working in the middle of an empty parking lot in the Holland suburbs set me straight. An empty mall horseshoes around them as they shovel compost into wheelbarrows. An acre and a half of asphalt had recently been removed, now replaced by fresh topsoil.

Though I had heard about the farmers’ project before driving to Holland, I’m still taken aback. I arrive full of questions. Why grow a garden in the happy city of tulips? And why here in a parking lot? Why work so hard to cultivate a paradox? The men, who are part of an enterprise called Eighth Day Farm, answer my questions while they work.

“In this town, everything looks really pretty on the outside, with all the tulips,” says Josh Hauch, a 30-ish man in a blue plaid shirt tells me as he gestures to some vague location beyond the mall. “But there are a lot of issues of poverty and need right in our neighborhood. People don’t have jobs. They want to work but there is no work.”

The hollow storefronts confirm his words. Unemployment and economic need are good enough reasons to start a public garden/farm, which bring locally grown, inexpensive vegetables to those with falling incomes. In 2010, already 38 percent of Americans were growing some of their own food, a number that’s much higher today. The new passion for gardening is evident in rural, urban and even suburban areas, as community and church groups reclaim vacant lots, create shared community gardens, grow containers full of produce on rooftops, bringing food out of former wastelands and into “food deserts,” where fresh produce can be hard to find. But Holland, Michigan, is not New York City. It’s solidly within the country’s breadbasket. Acknowledging this, Eighth Day Farm—whose mission statement is “joining the restoration of land for food and the flourishing of Holland’s residents”—calls itself a “quasi-urban farm.”

Read the full article here.

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