The house on Detroit‘s Iliad Street is stripped to a skeleton: no appliances, no wiring, no doors. Upstairs reeks of urine and animal waste because someone once stashed dogs there for fighting. Downstairs, the floors are covered in rubble, empty whiskey bottles and other detritus left by squatters and junkies.
Jonathan Pommerville sees just one thing, however: possibility. “This house can be rehabbed and brought back to life!” he shouts.
This neighborhood in northwest Detroit might seem an unlikely candidate for revitalization. Decades of population loss have left block after block of boarded-up houses and vacant lots. For years, it was a dumping ground: tires, appliances, furniture, toilets, gas tanks, bags of garbage and, in one house, a dead body.
But the remaining residents of Brightmoor are determined to rebuild. Over the past few years, they have used social media to kick out drug dealers, harass arsonists and shame illegal dumpers.
And they have solicited energetic homesteaders and farmers to repopulate vacant houses and lots, people willing to work for a renaissance even out here, far from the high-rise condos and upscale restaurants of downtown Detroit.
“As citizens, we are taking it back,” said Pommerville, 38, a biker with a hanging goatee and a mischievous smile.