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July 22, 2018

Head Heart Hustle Herald: The Ghosts of Atkinson

Head Heart Hustle Herald

Sunday, July 22nd Edition

The Ghosts of Atkinson

I want to start today’s writing with a story:

Yesterday I was knocking on doors in the Boston Edison neighborhood. I froze in my tracks when I realized that I had encountered two homes that I once worked very hard to keep out of foreclosure.

The house on the left and the house on the right are just across from each other on Atkinson Street. I was in this same spot about 4 years ago, watching a young boy walk and even younger boy out of one, across the street, and into the other. Both houses were listed in that year’s tax foreclosure auction.

That was one of the defining moments in my decision to start The Tricycle Collective to help stabilize the homes of young children because I could see that, not only were their homes at risk, but their neighborhoods too.

I became close with the amazing women who were fighting to save both those homes, Arleen and Denise. Sadly, we lost both of their in that year’s auction.

Yesterday, I could’ve knocked on what used to be Arleen and Denise’s doors as a candidate, but I didn’t. It didn’t feel right to court the votes of the new owners.

A few streets later, I came up to a woman on my voter list and introduced myself as a candidate I told her about my work in housing and tax foreclosure and she said “well I’m actually dealing with that right now.” I asked if I could look up her property, she said ‘”yes,” and I pulled up her address on the Wayne County Treasurer website. FORECLOSED.  Hold shit. She didn’t know. She thought it had been pulled form foreclosure because of the probate status and she was extremely skeptical of what I was telling her. “Look! This is the government website!” I said.

The thing is, I am one of very few people who can help her. The program I lead enables people to buy the houses they live in before they go up for public auction. We just got an extension and we have two more days to sign people up. It’s not too late to stop her from losing this home.

As I spoke, she went straight from not believing me it was foreclosed, to telling me I was stressing her out, to saying she was giving up on the house and didn’t want it anyway. I was truly devestated. To have that magical combination of right place, right time, right solution, to know that if this house goes up for auction, it will be impossibly expensive, to see it all to clearly was heartbreaking.

One thing this work has taught me is that you can’t want someone to save their home more than they do. It’s not my job to tell you to want to buy your house, but I can help you save it if that’s what you want. She seemed not to.

But I couldn’t leave it at that. So I pulled up my other map- not the map of voters but the map of homes in foreclosure- and I decided to go back to some of the ones that our volunteers had visited but not made contact.

I knocked on a door- no one home- so I began to write a long note. Before I finished writing I heard a voice and, when I stepped off the porch, I could see someone in the upper floor leaning out the window to see what I was doing there.

I told him and he came downstairs immediately. He showed me how he had paid $400 to the Wayne County Treasurer on June 7th (before the deadline), and I showed him that it had been foreclosed anyway. Wow. He didn’t know. He told me he owned the house, and I told him that the requirement for homeowners to be in the program is that they had to have a low income. He has a good job and wouldn’t qualify. Then I asked a  few more questions and came to discover that, although he had paid $50,000 for the home, he had never gotten the deed. He had been scammed! That changed everything- now he’s considered a tenant and there is no income requirement for tenants. We’re back in business! The man made an appointment to come to my office next week and we will help him save this home, I can feel it in my bones.

That story exemplifies exactly why I have chosen to keep working throughout this campaign, and why I do this kind of work in the first place.

Last night, I went to a screening of the film 12th And Clairmount, and incredible documentary of the 1967 uprising in Detroit. We were only blocks away from that notorious intersection and my heart ached to watch the images of fires and the stories of lives lost. The unhealed wounds seemed even more palpable there in the footprint of the loss.

I’ve seen this film before but I watched it this time from a different perspective because I am a candidate for public office and this is in my district. It is truly a great responsibility to honor the memory of this place and to be a part of the healing work that we still need to do. If, in the future, you hear me use the word “healing,” please take extra note. This is something I want us to build tools around within our society and in my own life. Songs, traditions and practices to respond to hurts that come up and process old ones.

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We have new beautiful literature! We actually ran out of the old ones, which means we reached out to 10,000 voters. I am so proud. Artistic and moral inspiration is definitely being drawn from the amazing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Guys, the election is just over 2 weeks away. There are 14 candidates. There is nothing inevitable about my victory. If you want to help me, this is the time. Please don’t procrastinate, don’t be afraid, don’t overthink it, just reach out. If you are a “maybe” just reach out. Please email me back to tell me what actions you want to take to help, or ask if you need ideas.

 

Your candidate,

Michele

 

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July 22, 2018

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