Detroit- A broken city on the rise…but its still a city

photo-37Detroit walk- I am without a vehicle this week so I have been walking around the Downtown Detroit today to get place to place. As I was walking down near a street of abandoned buildings this was the experience I had with a homeless man following behind me on my walk past Cass park towards Woodward Ave. =

Man- Hey mam, do you have any money for the bus so I can get to a shelter

Me: Where are you trying to go

Man: Oh, this place near Woodward and Selden

Me: Oh, great I know exactly where that is at, I will walk with you over there, you don’t need a bus. it is less than a mile. I am going that way anyway.

Man: Well, actually can I have some change for food then?

Me: I won’t give you cash, but I will walk with you and buy you food from that corner store when we walk past it

Man: No No No, can I just have you then pretty girl? I could make you feel real good!  ( he walks towards the sidewalk closer to me)

Me: Our conversation is done, I tried to give you the benefit of the doubt, but you cant talk to people like that ( I walk further away from him and start walking in the middle of the street)

Man: (comes right up next to me and puts his hand on my backpack) come on white girl, you know you want some of this black ****!

Me: No, Don’t touch me! ( I pull my bag to the other side of my body and go to the other sidewalk still walking towards my destination, walking faster)

Man: I will give it to you whether you want it or not, get back here white girl and give it to me. Don’t make me come get it now. ( he runs up behind me and grabs my arm)

Me: (I push him away and run down towards Woodward and make it to the turning lane in between traffic and he sees construction workers near me now)

Man: (laughing and yelling) I will be waiting for you beautiful, you gonna get some

Such a lovely stroll through midtown Detroit! Sadly, this is not my first time having to deal with this scenario in the city. I have had this scenario happen in many different ways on most days I am outside in the city. Typically I carry a 9mm and I am a bit less fearful, however, today I was not armed. I had no choice but to walk through this section to get where I needed to go, I didn’t have a vehicle, I could not find a ride, and Uber had no drivers in the area. SO my only choice was to walk. You can easily say, “well, why would you put yourself in that situation” IT WAS 2 pm middle of the day…middle of the city, if you don’t have a vehicle you have no choice but to walk. Many people in the city, young women, teenagers, and students have to get around the city this way everyday. This situation is LIFE.

Unfortunately, in my field of work (Detroit Forensic nurse, specializing in rape and sexual assault victims) I see this scenario played out to the end and the girls usually don’t get away. If they end up living through the assault, most girls that come to me were walking in daylight and pulled into a building or into an alley, in some cases a car pulls up to them on the sidewalk and they are grabbed and pulled into the vehicle and dropped off into a new location before coming to me. THIS IS REAL LIFE. It happens everyday. Luckily today I was able to get out of the situation. He was a 50 year old, 6″, at least 220  lb black male with a leather jacket on. It is SO important when you come to Detroit to experience the excitement of the up and coming city- BE SMART.  Detroit is on the “rise” but it is still a big city, and it is a hurting city. It has the reputation of being the murder and violent crime capital for a reason. That doesn’t change just because the buildings are starting to look artsy and cool.

There is a lot of Hype about Detroit these days. Many people hold to the stigma that Detroit is the murder capital of the world and has the highest crime rate. That cant be argued. That is pure fact. The FBI has released its annual stats for 2015 of major U.S. cities with the highest crime figures. Topping the list — with far and away the worst murder and violent crime rates — is Detroit. However, there are also those that hold to the fact that Detroit is on its way back up. This is true….but it is relative to how far down it already is. There are many investors scooping up properties and improving the facade of the city. This gives the city a great appearance and the hipsters and young professionals moving downtown with their talents and arts make the city sound and look better. That is also a fact.

There is a greater issue at hand that hasn’t been touched on by many. A city is made up of people. You can not change a city without changing the people. The city can be expanded and built up for years and years, but buildings don’t make up the city, the people do. The people of Detroit are hurting. There is a financial need, a spiritual need, and a family structure need. The city has been through years of hurt. The people in the city of Detroit have been “institutionalized” to the way things are. Many of the inhabitants of the city are quite offended at the changes. Many cannot afford to live downtown any more because of the rental price increases. This has created a deep resentment and anger towards those who are moving to the city to build it up. Last year when I lived in Detroit I was persecuted daily for being a “white girl in our city”. I was told to go back to the suburbs and leave their city alone. SOME PEOPLE JUST DON’T WANT HELP.

So much focus is put into the homeless population. In many cases those who are homeless are choosing to be. Sometimes the drugs make the decision for them and many times they just don’t know any different and don’t care to. The culture has been set and most do NOT want “help”- Money, yes they want that…as does anybody- but true help and change is not something that is typically desired and that is what most people miss.

I have spent many years on the streets and I have experienced homelessness. I get it. I understand. My mom worked as a prostitute in Detroit and my father lived in crack houses for much of his life. I have been doing a lot of street and inner city mission work in an attempt to “give back” and help. Unfortunately, all that has showed me is that the current culture of people ” helping the homeless and hurting” in Detroit is flawed. One thing remains- you cant help somebody who wont help themselves. You just can’t. You cant save everyone.