DPS partners with Detroit Fire Department to board abandoned homes, eliminate blight near school buildings

More than 20 abandoned homes, fire-damaged structures and blighted properties near Dixon Educational Learning Academy and the Cody High School campus were the target of a massive blight elimination effort on Saturday, October 26, 2013 from 9 a.m. – Noon.

The effort corresponds with enhanced safety measures across Detroit Public Schools, including a program to add hundreds of Citizens Patrol teams to the district’s Safe Routes Program. A new target of 14 key school zones—including the Cody/Rouge area— was announced in early August as part of the district’s five-year Strategic Plan.

Saturday’s event was held on the nationally recognized Make a Difference Day. The Detroit Fire Department, Detroit Fireman’s Fund, Skillman Foundation, Cody Rouge Community Action Alliance and a host of other supporting organizations came together to board up abandoned homes and clean blighted properties in the half-mile radius surrounding Dixon and Cody. The goal behind the event was to make these areas safer for students traveling to and from school.  Other participating organizations included: Grays Outdoor Services, Community Connections, Hodari Design and Conscious Communities.

The group hosted the Cody Rouge Children’s March prior to tackling more than 20 abandoned properties on Trinity, Tireman and Burt roads.

The march started at 9 a.m. at Joy and Spinoza roads in Rouge Park. A rally followed at 10:30 a.m. where participants gathered at 7800 Pierson Ave., the site of a burned-down apartment structure on the corner of Tireman and Pierson, to hear from speakers who helped organize the clean-up effort.

Speakers at the rally included:
John King, Detroit Fire Deputy Chief
Martin McClung, Detroit Firefighter-Engine Co. 53
Gary Ringer, Detroit Firefighter-Engine Co. 55
Osborn Collegiate Academy of Math, Science and Technology Youth Council Members

Students, parents and community stakeholders were invited to join the effort and help clean the abandoned properties surrounding the schools. In addition to boarding abandoned homes, the group also cleaned brush and debris in the area and cut down tall grassy fields.

Targeted properties included:
8102 Trinity; 8136 Trinity; 8294 Trinity; 20900 Tireman; 8033 Burt Rd; 8040 Burt Rd; 8049 Burt Rd; 8057 Burt Rd; 8075 Burt Rd; 8064 Burt Rd; 8089 Burt Rd; 8097 Burt Rd; 8086 Burt Rd; 8096 Burt Rd; 8105 Burt Rd; 8104 Burt Rd; 8254 Burt Rd;
Corners of Burt Rd/Constance; Tireman/Brialle; Tireman/Stout

For firefighters Martin McClung and Gary Ringer, who led the effort, this project has both professional and personal ties.

“In 2006, Firefighter Ringer and I responded to the fire at Park View Manor (located at 7800 Pearson Ave. where the rally will be held),” said McClung, who represents Engine Company 53. “Seeing this area finally getting cleaned up means something to us. The more homes we’re able to board up, the less fires we’ll have to respond to at abandoned homes, and the safer students will be on the way to school.”

On a personal note, McClung and Ringer said they are concerned about the threats in vacant structures for children walking to and from school.

“Some of the weeds are six-feet tall,” added Ringer, representing Engine Company 55. “These areas allow easy accessibility for assault. As a parent, I feel it’s the duty of every adult to protect our children—especially from senseless crimes that can be prevented if we just clean up these abandoned properties.”

Improved Safe Routes
In early August, Detroit Public Schools announced a broad expansion of its Citizens Patrol programs to vastly increase Safe Routes for Detroit children and their families going to and from school. The expanded citizens patrols, which are part of a comprehensive, multi-agency program that has helped already to spur a sharp reduction in incidents, was one of the first initiatives to be implemented under the district’s new comprehensive five-year Strategic Plan.

The additional volunteers will build upon highly active men’s patrol groups now watching routes and bus stops near the Cody High School campus, where Brothers on Patrol has a presence, and the Osborn High School campus, where MADE Men patrol. The M.A.N. Network also patrols several DPS schools. Those interested in volunteering should call 313-748-6008.

“While it is indeed the responsibility of all community members to help ensure the safety of students as they travel to and from school, this is a top priority for DPS and one that we aren’t taking lightly,” said DPS Emergency Manager Jack Martin. “In order for students to have high academic achievement in school, they have to get there safely first. Partnering with organizations like the Detroit Fire Department and Detroit Fireman’s Fund helps us to achieve our ultimate goal of providing a high-quality education to all students. This is impossible if students don’t feel safe.”

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