We all try to keep our families together, safe and warm, inside the Detroit City Limits. My idea of perfect living would be spent in a beautiful, modern, well-decorated open-style loft with exposed brick walls and wrap-around windows overlooking The Statue of Liberty. Equipped with all the state-of-the art amenities one's little heart could desire, I think that might make me happy. However, for the moment, I am grateful to be living in an old Victorian mansion that I can barely afford to heat! I realize I probably will never be happy or satisfied with what I have; it's just my nature. But on this cold February day in Detroit, life is truly harsh for those not even half as lucky as I am.
While driving in downtown Detroit, I happened to run across a young man coming out of this building during one of our recent snow storms. I may be wrong in making this assumption, but it appeared to me that the building above looks to be an urban "squat". The front door had a makeshift lock on it and the uppermost window was broken out. There were no real signs of any ongoing maintenance, and from the looks of the outside, the inside was decorated with found objects and such. Shabby, but with the panache only hardy, adventurous young artists types could make work. Whatever the circumstances, this building, and all of the peripheral design accompanying it, are inspirational and unique. It shows you just how like kinds will unite and make a place to call home.
And just when you think all is lost because you aren't a trust fund child, you drive by somebody who just might be an heir to a fortune but chooses instead to spend his life sleeping in sub-zero temperatures on the porch of a nearby church. This tableau represents the innermost special qualities of this human being, who neatly folded his sleeping gear. He has a bag from an over priced luxury grocery store, and an old copy of The New York Times. What does this tell us? It tells us that the will to live is so strong that somebody will not give up as easily as all that. It tells us that this person still has remnants of dignity and a will so strong that he will call this porch his home, for now, if he has to. Sanctuary. Asylum.
Even animals will bond...which is more than I can say about a lot of humans. I have seen this dog pack roaming the streets of my neighborhood for years. They are hungry and cold and beaten down, but they are still alive. I spent my last ten dollars on a bag of food for them, but when I drove back to feed them, they were making tracks down the street to find another stoop to sit on. You must remember: these were once somebody's pets. They probably once had the love and warmth and comfort of a home, but now they only have each other.
These are vagabond dogs. The hobos of the dog world. The black one on the end with his bent and broken ear. The one in the middle who can barely stand up. She's a female, who from the looks of her teats, has given birth to many litters...who knows where the pups ended up. The big American Bull Terrier (I REFUSE to call him a "Pit Bull"), on the other end of the stoop, is the leader of the pack. He leads, the others follow, and when ever he decides, they hole up for the night and seek the warmth of each other.
Here in Detroit, we have the one of the most tight knit music and art communities I have ever seen. Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw counties are a brotherhood. We will never let each other down. When we have a surplus of time, money, and love, we share the wealth with others. We may be all experiencing hard times in this city, but you will never know it from the spirit within. Please read the little article below about NORCs, and know that we never really ever have to worry as long as we have each other! If you can, start focusing on the possibility of creating a NORC in your communities.
‘NORCs’ – Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities’ is a demographic term to describe neighborhoods or buildings in which a large segment of the residents are older adults. In general, they are not purpose-built senior housing or retirement communities and were neither designed nor intended to meet the particular health and social services needs and wants of the elderly. Most commonly, they are places where community residents have either aged in place, having lived in their homes over several decades, or are the result of significant migrations of older adults into the same housing constructs or neighborhoods, where they intend to spend the rest of their lives.
The Spirit of Detroit may be crushed from time to time...but NEVER broken.