Monday, August 29, 2011

The Detroit Homelessness Experience, West Bloomfield-style

Kemistry Records' neighbors in Lathrup Village, or any Oakland County resident, who missed this weekend's up-close-and-personal-with-homeless album promotion can experience the Midtown homeless experience firsthand, thanks to the efforts of year-old West Bloomfield charity and urban adventure organizer Action By Presence.

For $250, the startup charity will let you participate in a Street Retreat, and get face-to-face with the drugs and guns in Detroit.  They'll event let you camp out with homeless people overnight at Redmond Plaza at the northwest corner of Second Avenue and Selden, which is walking distance from an elementary school, upscale condos, Detroit restaurants Mario's and Traffic Jam, and the performing arts high school.

Participants are even encouraged to blog their experience in real-time as they make their way across the city begging for bus fare and handouts.  One participant described the experience in Zen detail:

"... We heard stories of the Detroit Rescue Mission, open 24 hours, where one can come as long as one stays in a seat, and people being shot and throats being slit."
It's hard for folks living out in West Bloomfield to get a real feel for the Midtown Detroit experience, so the non-profit's Street Retreats help participants "experience homelessness first-hand, begging for money, finding places to get food, to use the bathroom, etc."

Stray-cations, hmm?  I wonder if participants have to sign a waiver that they won't sue the upstart charity if they are approached by this guy with the gutter spike.

Action By Presence's website doesn't offer its financials and their 501(c)(3) is still under review by the Feds.  I'm off to check to see if there are other non-profit stray-cation companies offering homeless tours of Detroit. 

If Action By Presence's Street Retreats keep encouraging people to pretend to be homeless in Detroit, how much harder is it going to be to find the people who really are homeless and in need of help to get the help they need?  Think of all the responsible Detroit charities who go from park to vacant lot every day to get people to resources and imagine the waste of their time when they have to filter through pretend homeless people standing between them and the truly needy.

So whatever you do, Detroit, please don't do anything to get the homeless out of vacant lots and city parks and into substance abuse treatment, to get them the medical attention they need, to get them into homes.  You'll only hurt the suburban charity Action By Presence's ability to send people on Street Retreats. 

And special thanks to our neighbors in the Willis Selden Historic District for allowing Action By Presence to draw drug traffic and charity outreach away from Cass Park and from "Mack" and Third further in the direction of the Oakland County-based non-profits who serve them by opening up Redmond Plaza to outreach groups.  You're doing your part to help keep drugs and violence out of Cass Park.

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