Detroit, August 2010

Yesterday, we arrived in Detroit. The city’s unemployment rate is estimated to be in the range of 35 to 50 percent.

The streets here are quiet. There is little or no traffic, even in the heart of downtown. Few pedestrians.

The streetscape, driving into downtown Detroit. The former site of the Detroit Tigers ballpark is on the left.

There are no chain grocery stores in the city of Detroit any longer.

Detroit’s enormous abandoned former train station, encircled by barbed wire, looms over a small grassy park, occupied only by a few homeless men camping under trees. A Salvation Army truck parked alongside the park provided lunch for them and a few other men who walked up to its open window, collected their food and drifted away again.

At least half the homes in the city’s residential areas that we drove through yesterday are empty — boarded up, burnt out, vacated. Many houses have been razed. On the empty lots, grasses, Queen Anne’s lace and other wildflowers flourish.

One of Detroit’s three major new casinos can be seen behind this deserted, torched home. Nature is gradually reclaiming its yard.

At the end of the day, we interviewed Mary McDougall, executive director of Operation Able, a 25-year-old nonprofit, that helps older workers retrain for new jobs and one of the organization’s clients, who is 58 years old and jobless. Her unemployment benefits have expired, and she is turning to family and local social services agencies to help her eat and pay her bills until she finds work again.



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