Bankruptcy behind it, Detroit’s atmosphere swirls with the promise of better days.
Charles Floyd Jones can only hope that the city’s good fortune trickles down to him and the 10 other residents of a tent city that’s sprouted in the shadow of a resurgent downtown where rental occupancy is close to full and restaurants and shops are doing brisk business.
Jones and others in this makeshift community of seven tents — believed to be the only tent city in Detroit — say they have nowhere else to go.
“By us being out of bankruptcy, they can see that you got people out here that’s struggling,” said Jones, 51.
The city’s homeless numbers swelled over the past decade as manufacturing and other jobs disappeared and homes were lost during the national foreclosure crisis. All told, about 16,200 of Detroit’s 680,000 residents — almost 2.4 percent — are believed to be living on the streets or in temporary shelters — and that doesn’t account for other types of homelessness, such as teens going from friend to friend and families living in motels.
By comparison, only about 1 percent of San Francisco’s more than 800,000 residents are homeless. But San Francisco is on much firmer financial ground than Detroit, which shed $7 billion in debt during bankruptcy. Its restructuring plan aims to raise revenue and improve city services with $1.7 billion in funding, but it also calls for austerity in budgeting.
“I love Detroit. I’d hope things would get better,” said 29-year-old Josh Reslow, who shares a tent in the encampment with girlfriend Brittney Hines, 25. “I’m a carpenter and with no work going on, I guess, that’s part of the reason I’m on the street.”
The city has “tried to provide” for homeless programs throughout Detroit’s financial crisis and bankruptcy, according to the Rev. Faith Fowler, executive director of the nonprofit Cass Community Social Services. Her nonprofit is one of three that will operate warming centers through the end of March on behalf of the city.
“They want to make sure that people are safe and that their needs are met throughout the winter,” she said.