Detroit Activists Launch Innovative Crowdfunding Effort to Solve Urban Blight Problems


Of one of Detroit's most neglected neighborhoods could be on the verge of a complete overhaul. Shamayim 'SHU' Harris is a Detroit-based entrepreneur and activist, working with her non-profit, The Moon Ministry, to inspire positive change in the community. And her latest venture is Avalon Village, a sustainable eco-village in Detroit's Highland park area. Together, with her team of engineers, artists, urban farmers and national allies, Harris has already raised upwards of $56,000 for the project in its early start.

So what's included in the $240K? "Where schools have been defunded and closed down, we are building a Homework House. Where city streetlights have been repossessed and people left in the dark, we're building cooperatively-owned and operated solar streetlights. Where healthy food offerings are few and far between, we're building a greenhouse-to-cafe food system," Harris explains. 

Eco-villages have been widely successful around the world - from Bocas Del Toro, Panama to Blue Rock Village, South Africa. 

Earlier this month, the trend also came to Cleveland, where tiny homes are giving way to a rental renaissance. Keith Sutton, whose firm is overseeing the tiny house construction in Detroit Shoreway, Cleveland has two decades of experience in neighborhood reconstruction.

According to Freshwater Cleveland, “Twenty-four years ago, Sutton was the real-estate visionary that saw opportunity in the then-distraught Tremont neighborhood. He started building townhomes on fallow parcels in a place that hadn’t seen a new foundation in some fifty years. Since 1996, Sutton has constructed more than 300 homes; many priced at $170,000 and up on what was once considered less than desirable property.”

“I would not have for the life of me stepped foot south of Jefferson Avenue,” Sutton told Freshwater Cleveland, regarding the one crime-riddled area. 

But the actual eco-village planning process, as a grassroots initiative, is also lengthy. “After years of patient work acquiring the land, seeking the permits, and building our expert team, we're finally ready to birth this baby. Phase 1 is scheduled to be completed by late-September 2016. It will cost us almost $250,000, employ dozens of local workers, and rally hundreds of volunteers to our city,” reported Harris. 

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