Anger, disbelief, and fear were the primary emotions expressed by the hundreds of Detroiters who gathered at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Building on March 2, 2012. Contractors, community volunteers, and even some of the seniors who still had gaping holes in their walls from an attempt to update insulation were present and wanting answers. The meeting room was filled to capacity and so was the overflow room, where monitors were streaming the City Council meeting live. I stood with about 20 concerned citizens in the inner lobby, listening for someone to give us some answers as to why the Detroit Department of Human Services, which has served the under served in Detroit for many years, would be dissolved.
Television and print news had called this foul action a result of alleged criminal activity, which is currently under investigation. However, the representative from the Michigan Department of Human Services who stood to request a management transfer or voluntary decertification of the Detroit Department of Human Services to a regional body spoke to 70 findings since 2007, only 50% of which had been resolved. She also reported how other agencies were managed in comparison to the City of Detroit, calling the current situation “dismal.” She attempted to explain what she called the complex organization of DHS and MHS throwing out dollar amounts, but never explaining why funding, which was authorized in 2009 by President Obama to provide essential home repair to seniors, had been placed on hold since last fall.
Because the alleged criminal investigation was still in progress, details were not revealed, but the audience still wanted answers. “Show me the money” was the statement I kept hearing. Who was investigating the State of Michigan? Who was holding the money that was already allotted to provide weatherization for low-income seniors in Detroit? Contractors who walked off the job, leaving equipment on the property of some seniors, were eager to be paid for the work they had already completed. Weatherization employees who had a payless work week when the funding was brought to a screeching halt wanted answers too.
This problem with the control and distribution of funds is not resolved, but concerned Detroiters want to know why more than a million dollars that was allocated to help our most vulnerable senior citizens stay warm in their homes has not been released to complete the job that is already in progress. Why would several million dollars in aid be entrusted to an organization which was allegedly plagued with corruption and error in 2007, instead of attempting to resolve the problems five years later during an election year? Could this possibly be another political move to discredit our president’s commitment toAmerica’s most vulnerable? Is this a ploy to make the Republican agenda appear to be the best solution for America’s urban cities?
Money in limbo is the same as no money at all. Detroit had a mild winter but summer is just a few months away. Our seniors have invested in America like everyone else and deserve to be comfortable in their homes in their golden years. Stop the politics.
By: Versandra Kenebrew