Frustrated resident changes community with $100
How a Detroiter Invested in neighborhood youth by purchasing a side lot
“When my youngest daughter graduated from high school, we planned to put a for sale sign on our lawn.”
Embarrassed and frustrated with abandonment and blight in her community, Jacqueline Moore, a west side resident, was ready to call it quits and move somewhere more desirable. In fact, the property next door was so bad, all that was left was the exposed basement, along with other unflattering debris.
It’s not that she didn’t love Detroit, but she felt her family deserved a better quality of life. But the move was put on hold because of a unique opportunity.
In 2014, the City of Detroit and Detroit Land Bank started a program that allows residents to purchase a side lot for just $100.
After the City got involved and the hole was finally closed, Moore jumped at the chance, acquiring the property next door on Lenore St. But she didn’t stop there.
“We’ve transformed it. We have a basketball court, horseshoe pits, a volleyball net. I’ll be able to reach more young people, so we’re just so excited,” said Moore. The lot even has a community garden, zip line, and archery for youth to enjoy.
Back in 2011, Moore established SDM2 Project Education, a non-profit organization working to promote, support, and build confidence in young people. Turns out, that first lot, now called Moore Park, would allow her to expand on her passion for education.
Moore and her husband, Willie, bought additional property on her block, including a duplex across the street that they turned into a community house. The SDM2 House is designed like a school with computers, SMART Boards, and a café. The large lot even allowed for a graduation ceremony for neighborhood students.
Moore admits that neighbors were skeptical when the project first got underway, but now they’re excited, as it provides a safe environment. “It allows kid to be kids, but it also opened up an opportunity for conversation. You can relax, sit down and talk,” said Moore.
According to Moore, keeping that line of communication open is important, especially for teenagers.
Eighteen-year-old Eric Crocker participated in Moore’s program. When he first got involved, he was having a rough time with environmental influences. “My house would get broken into or you’d see somebody being killed and always hearing gunshots,” said Crocker. These circumstances left him with little interest in school or the future.
With mentoring through Moore’s program, Crocker is now in his second year at Oakland Community College, working on his associate degree in science and technology. “My life is going really well. They helped me steer my life away from the other mess.”
It’s outcomes like Crocker’s that inspire Moore to continue her work with young people. Aesthetically, she says the neighborhood overall has improved. But more importantly, the community has taken on a village mentality; an old school practice where adults look after every child’s well-being and not just their own.
Although the project has come with financial challenges, Moore never quit, always believing she was doing the right thing.
“We put ourselves aside and invested in someone else’s young person and it went to a level that we could not have imagined.”