Director of Service-Learning
Office of Service-Learning
4200 54th Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33711
Detroit - Spring Break 2012
A group of six students and one staff member volunteered in downtown Detroit, Michigan with Cass Community Social Services. The agency shelters and feeds homeless men, women and children, and offers limited transitional and permanent housing. They work with dozens of developmentally disabled adults and provide education, meals, and some employment opportunities. Cass is also creating green industries that turn illegally dumped tires into mud mats and flip flops.
The group worked on two new properties that Cass had purchased in hopes of creating more transitional and permanent housing. We painted the walls, sanded and stained the floors, and installed appliances at the Elmhurst Building. The work was especially significant when we had an opportunity to meet one of the women who would be moving in the following week. We took sledge hammers to cast iron sinks and tubs at a newly acquired building that was in the demolition phase of its renovation. This apartment building will be able to house hundreds of individuals when it is finished next year.
In our free time we were able to walk around the neighborhood and see firsthand the abandoned houses looted for their metal pipes, the empty lots where half a block of houses were demolished, and boarded up storefronts. During our walk we were fortunate enough to speak with a few homeowners who were fixing houses in their neighborhood and had faith that things were getting better.
Our final day in Detroit we visited the Heidelberg Project. This unique location is a constantly changing “found art” exhibit that covers houses and empty lots. This project began when a local man, Tyree Guyton, began to paint abandoned houses in bright colors and attach discarded items to the structure. It has since grown into a powerful social and political protest about the state of the neighborhood and the world. The most well-known of the houses is the “Animal House” which has hundreds of stuffed animals attached to every surface of the building. It was unquestionably an experience we will not soon forget.