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Reaction Paper: The Motor City Through My Eyes
Jeff Denis

         Peering out the window at the city across the river from the 14th floor of the
Hilton Hotel in Windsor, it really didn‟t look so bad. In fact, under light morning
flurries, the Detroit skyline seemed quite beautiful. But, up close, later that day, my
observations began to confirm the stories: block faces where every other building was
boarded up and abandoned; homeless people walking the streets in ragged clothing;
widespread pollution and poverty.
         Last Friday, our class took a windshield tour of Detroit and visited various
community groups. Although I had read much about the urban health problems in such
cities, the experience of seeing them in person gave new meaning to terms like
“segregation,” “inequality,” and “despair,” but also to terms like “hope.”
         Driving through the Lower East Side, I noticed three salient features of the
environment. First, it resembled a “ghost town.” Most residential streets contained
multiple vacant lots and deserted buildings. The apparently occupied houses may have
been attractive 50 years ago, but had deteriorated over time. Few residents walked the
streets. Those that did looked angry or insecure. The atmosphere was eerie, and I felt a
bit tense, even inside our van.
         A second prominent feature of the Lower East Side was the convenience stores,
which advertised “Liquor” and “Lotto” in large letters and adorned the corners of most
blocks. At the same time, I was shocked to discover that this neighbourhood had no
grocery store or supermarket. Businesses, it seems, are afraid to invest in this “risky”
area (i.e., unprofitable due to poor residents and potential robbery). Although I take for
granted my local Dominion and Shopper‟s Drug Mart, the residents of East Detroit lack
access to fresh food and other basic necessities. Perhaps some travel to other parts of the
city to obtain nourishment, but doing so is difficult: up to 25% of families have no car,
the city has no subway system, and the buses are unsafe and unreliable. It is far more
convenient to spend one‟s precious resources at the corner store on overpriced or expired
food, booze, and lottery tickets. Is it any wonder that the rates of malnutrition, high
cholesterol, diabetes, and addictions are so high in Detroit?
         Finally, in the Lower East Side, I observed several churches that posted messages
such as “Jesus loves you” or “Salvation lies here.” Although I realize that many religious
organizations intend to aid the disadvantaged and actually do offer useful services (e.g.,
food banks, shelters, support groups), I cannot help but wonder if their faith-based
messages distract from improving the social organization of the material world, here and
now. If, as Marx argued, people questioned religion‟s promise of salvation but retained
the fundamental value of caring for others, then perhaps they would be more motivated to
work for social change. I don‟t know.
         With its extreme rates of poverty and unemployment, the Lower East Side
contained some of the most deprived neighbourhoods in the city. Although Southwest
Detroit, which we visited next, had similar economic deprivation, its ethnic mix was
different. Whereas the Lower East Side was 90% African American, Southwest Detroit
consisted of a blend of Latino, Arab, White, and African Americans. In addition, I
perceived a greater sense of “community” in the latter part of the city (e.g., more
restaurants and commercial activity, more people walking and driving). Nevertheless, I
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observed run-down buildings, crumbling sidewalks, potholes, graffiti, and other signs of
“neighbourhood disorder” (Ross & Mirowsky). Perhaps the most astonishing feature of
Southwest Detroit was the reported 87% high school dropout rate. This statistic was
shocking and sad. It would be interesting to examine the reasons for dropout (e.g., death,
incarceration, teen pregnancy). As one community leader said, many adolescents have
great entrepreneurial skills – they just use them in illegal fields, such as drug trafficking.
Her organization tries to redirect troubled youth into more constructive fields and
provides useful health resources, day care, and counseling.
         Another interesting attribute of Detroit was the privately owned Ambassador‟s
Bridge – the busiest international crossing for truck traffic in North America. Hundreds
of trucks traverse the bridge daily, spewing toxic gases into nearby residences and
contributing to environmental health problems. I was outraged to discover that the owner
and the truck lobby wish to increase truck traffic (to raise profitability). The advocates‟
response to criticisms is that the area is already polluted, and so another 100 trucks per
day will make little difference! Such flawed reasoning is laughable, but depressing. It
points to the urgent need to mass-produce vehicles with environmentally friendly sources
of energy. The transportation industry has the technology, but apparently not the will to
do so. Like building supermarkets in poor neighbourhoods, the strategy seems too risky.
Unfortunately, the decision-makers do not seem to realize that the current approach is
unsustainable and that, in the long run, it is in everyone‟s health interest to implement
alternatives (which may even be profitable for businesses, down the road).
         A further salient characteristic of Detroit was the prevalence of security measures
(e.g., barbed-wire fences, steel gates, locked doors; bulletproof glass at gas stations;
security guards and sign-in protocols at the Butzel Family Centre). Such measures are
relatively rare in Toronto, and certainly relate to the soaring crime rates in Detroit. They
indicate high levels of fear and mistrust, feelings that tend to cause physical and mental
disorders (Kawachi, Wilkinson et al.). From birth, humans have a strong need for
protection and security; when this need is frustrated, health problems arise.
         What is the origin of Detroit‟s social problems? I learned that the major factors
included the closure of automobile factories, segregation and race riots in the 1960s, and
economic downturns, which motivated most affluent and white residents to flee to the
suburbs. Over the past few decades, suburban flight and social divestment have left the
inner city with a small tax base, a pitiful lack of resources and infrastructure, intensified
residential segregation (by race and income), an inability to prevent environmental
hazards (as Fitzpatrick & LaGory describe), and one of the highest murder rates in the
West. Unlike most cities, the population of Detroit declined in the 20th century (from
over 2 million in 1950 to under 1 million today). Amy Schulz‟s maps illustrating the
racial composition and poverty rates in different census blocks were telling of the
segregation we had seen first-hand: wealthy and white folks concentrated around the
outer perimeter, and visible minorities and poor people concentrated in the center of the
city. It would have been interesting to visit the suburbs to contrast the peaceful affluence
of Grosse Point with the mistrust and deprivation of Warren and Conner.
         Despite the bleak portrait I have drawn, I actually left Detroit filled with hope and
inspiration. These feelings arose from the great initiatives underway at the Urban
Research Centre (URC). For example, REACH (Racial and Ethnic Approaches to
Community Health) tries to prevent and minimize the effects of diabetes among African
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Americans and Latinos; La Vida aims to reduce domestic violence and improve the
cultural sensitivity of services for Latino families; and Community Action Against
Asthma targets the environmental and psychosocial triggers for children‟s asthma. One
important project is the mini-market in East Detroit (i.e., “T” and colleagues buy fresh
fruits and vegetables from downtown, and sell them to residents at low cost at the
beginning of each month). I think this project is very helpful, but it may not be enough in
itself: people must be given not only the resources, but also the skills and knowledge to
use them. On that note, another interesting concept is the “soul food” demonstrations,
carried out by REACH (African Americans are invited to learn about their culture‟s
traditional food and to discover more healthy and inexpensive ways of preparing it).
         Two other URC initiatives might be useful for our study of Toronto
neighbourhoods. First, our focus groups could incorporate Barbara Israel‟s approach to
understanding the stressors in specific communities. In this approach (which formed the
basis of an Eastside Village Health Worker Partnership survey), each participant is asked
to complete the following statements: “I feel stressed when…”; “This makes me feel…”;
“I typically respond by…” Next, the group brainstorms “things that make it not so bad”
(e.g., social support, spirituality) and the consequences of prolonged stress without these
protective factors (e.g., depression, high blood pressure). The goal is to develop a locally
relevant model of the stress process, to reduce stressors, and to increase protections.
Perhaps we could ask residents of Jane/Finch, St. James Town, and Warden Woods the
same kinds of questions. In addition, we might be able to use the Village Health
Workers‟ checklist for measuring physical and social environments. If we used the same
indicators in our project, we could compare our results with those in Detroit.
         Another interesting project was the “Healthy Environments Partnership,” which
examined the relations between SES, physical environment, social stressors, and
cardiovascular disease. After our lunch at CHASS, Schulz discussed the aims,
methodology, and conceptual framework for this study. Although I agreed with the goals
and the basic theory underlying it, I questioned the extent to which this study could
“prove” causation. In particular, I asked, “Do you have any way of controlling for
bidirectionality effects? That is, if you discover correlations, can you infer causation?
How much of the causation goes from X to Y rather than Y to X (e.g., social relationships
and health)?” Unfortunately, this study was only cross-sectional and the researchers had
no means of controlling for such effects (e.g., no plans to turn it into a longitudinal
design). I realize how difficult it is to create a good “natural” study and believe that these
researchers are doing the best they can with limited resources. However, due to my
concern for methodology and theory as well as action, I felt I should point out this
limitation. Indeed, critics might emphasize such a limit in order to dismiss the findings.
It may be necessary to develop responses to such criticisms in order to appear credible
and to influence public policy.
         In any case, it was fascinating to observe Israel and Schulz in person after reading
their articles about CBPR. I perceived a kind of grudging respect between the academics
and the community members throughout their interactions. I believe that such
community-academic partnerships are key to overcoming “the social, structural, and
physical environmental inequities” faced by many cities today. As Israel et al. (1998)
argue, such an approach “builds on the strengths and resources” of both partners to the
benefit of each. With this in mind, I asked our tour guide, Robert McGranaghan, how
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much input community members have into the planning and programs at the URC. He
replied that the Board includes representatives of all partner organizations, including
several community groups. In addition, Steering Committees (i.e., Board members and
community representatives) develop proposals for new projects and oversee their
implementation. However, he made no mention of mechanisms for wider community
participation, such as open forums, community advisory panels, and so on. It is unclear
how many employees of these community groups live in the local neighbourhoods.
Nevertheless, the Butzel Family Centre, CHASS, and other partner organizations clearly
provide valuable services that help Detroiters survive their daily struggles.
        The question remains: what can we do to allow residents not simply to survive,
but rather to transcend their urban health problems? Where do we begin? In my view,
two factors are crucial: i.) a holistic understanding of health; and ii.) partnerships. The
URC mission statement summarizes the first point: “to ensure good health we must
address the individual, political, economic, and environmental risk factors in the
community.” As for the second point, although a social transformation ultimately
requires the efforts of residents themselves (a “bottom-up” approach), it seems
prerequisite to give them the resources they need to improve their own communities. The
real challenge is persuading all health-related sectors to come together and work for
change: housing, transportation, commerce (e.g., grocery stores), industry (providing
secure jobs to locals), public education, health care, environment, libraries, day care,
police, recreation, and so on. In addition, Detroit requires economic and racial
integration and genuine attempts to reduce poverty and inequality. Important tasks
include restoring old homes, building safe affordable housing, “beautifying” the city with
parks, gardens and festivals, cleaning up the litter, paving the roads & sidewalks, building
an efficient subway system, and encouraging residents to participate in civic life. The
turnaround will take a collective effort. It is not enough to open a supermarket if the
people have no means of getting there. It is not enough to build a transit system if people
have no jobs to travel to. It is not enough to make jobs available if people lack the
knowledge and skills to hold such jobs. Thus, a convergence of sectors must work
collaboratively to improve the city‟s health and wellness.
        Although this latter idea sounds far flung, it may be easier to achieve than we
think. Perhaps, if one or two brave companies invested in the area, if a few dozen
wealthy and white people moved back into the city, if a handful of police officers built
solid bridges with the communities, and if the new mayor acted on his progressive
rhetoric, then this would constitute the “critical mass” needed to encourage others to
follow in their footsteps. My hope is that one or two sparks will light the flame of
revitalization. But it is difficult for any community to organize, develop, and rebuild
itself without a minimum of initial resources (i.e., money, power, knowledge).
        In sum, the class trip to Detroit was a great idea. The experience of seeing
firsthand the problems and solutions that we read about was an excellent opportunity to
learn and reflect. Moreover, it allowed the class to come together as a team – eating
together, sharing our thoughts and feelings about urban health and CBPR, laughing and
singing in the van – something quite rare in the hierarchical world of universities and
most organizations. Finally, the trip inspired me to act on my beliefs and to want to
conduct CBPR in the future.
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    Jeff Denis
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                                     Trip to Detroit
                                       Anne Warner


        I think what struck me most about the trip was the physical appearance of the part
of Detroit we were shown. It would have been interesting to see the rest of the city in
order to have a big picture, but there wasn‟t enough time. The number of abandoned
houses was quite surprising because not only were they abandoned but some only had
half a roof etc.. The abandoned train station was probably the most interesting. It‟s so tall
and you can imagine how nice it must have been but now it‟s desolate and you can see
right through it. I don‟t know enough about Detroit to know the stories behind all of these
houses and the train station but it really is a shame.
        I think visiting in the spring or summer would have been good in order to get a
sense of what the community is like and what‟s happening on the streets. Because it was
so cold there was hardly anyone outside so we could only get a sense of the buildings not
the people. I think everyone in the class would agree that it is quite shocking and
unfortunate that there isn‟t a decent supermarket on the entire East side and in addition to
that, buses are unreliable and there is no subway so good food is very hard to find. The
difference between Detroit and a city like Toronto is very profound, and honestly made
me appreciate Toronto more than I did before. Not to say that Toronto doesn‟t have
problems, but there seem to be some bigger problems in Detroit.
        I think it‟s great that there are so many different organizations involved in the

Detroit URC Projects and the people are from different backgrounds and ethnicities. In

particular I thought the Healthy Eating and Exercise to Reduce Diabetes project was

good because it targeted a prominent problem in the community. In addition, I thought

that it was interesting to listen to what T was doing. It was great to see an example of a

community member participating in research. I thought her idea about the inexpensive

fresh food once a month on the East side was great. I also thought the Soul Food

workshops where people are taught how to eat the food they love healthier was great. It

seems like T has a good relationship with the people in the community and they can come

to her with questions about how to eat better and thus be healthier. I think all of these

programs are very helpful to the people in the community and it‟s important to have these

organizations so people feel they have somewhere to go if they have a problem or they
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need help. At the same time the people at the organization can build a trusting

relationship with the community members and educate them. I think people like T are

integral for this process. I wish them much success with their projects and hope Detroit

becomes a better place because of their work.
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SOC394- Reaction Paper for class trip to Detroit                              Stella Park


        On January 23, 2003, my SOC 394 class embarked on a one-day overnight trip to
Detroit, Michigan. I have been looking forward to this trip for months, and after
returning, I can definitely say that the experience was very educational and rewarding.
Everyone that we met was very welcoming and enthusiastic to share with us both their
positive and negative experiences in implementing urban health research. The first
location we visited in Detroit was the Butzel Family Centre. This friendly environment
housed a number of service agencies in one location, thus allowing convenient access for
community residents. Services included the Detroit Police Mini Station, Trinity Medical
Clinic, Recreation Department Senior Citizens Centre, and a library to name just a few.
Here, Robert McGranaghan, project manager of URC, and Maria Salinas, CAAA field
coordinator, presented us with information about history and geography of East Detroit.

        From the Butzel Family Centre, our class boarded the vans to take a „windshield‟
tour of the city. I was first alarmed and dispirited by what I observed: several abandoned
houses, empty playgrounds, large factories, and houses guarded by high metal fences.
Those guarded fences surrounding the houses were an indicator of many residents‟ „need‟
to protect themselves from the outside environment. With no nearby public parks, malls,
or movie theatres, I wondered how kids and teenagers would be spending their free times.
When we visited Detroit Hispanic Centre, a woman explained to us that children and
teenagers were negatively affected by these problems. As a result, she informed us that
some schools in south-east Detroit had school drop-out rates of over 80%! The
environment was very much like what I saw in scenes from the movie „8 Mile.‟ We had
stopped by a nearby gas station to get fuel, and when we entered, there was a glass shield
separating the store cashier from the customers. It was something that was not easily
observable in Toronto.

         Yet despite what I saw on the streets of Detroit, I was amazed and inspired to see
the URC members‟ great efforts in working towards improving their community. For
instance, at CHASS (Community Health and Social Service Centre) we had the
opportunity to discuss with Barbara Israel, Amy Schulz, and T. about community based
participatory research. This part was especially exciting since we had previously studied
about their research in our class. They stressed the importance of delivering the message
to the public about the “broad” definition of Health instead of the “narrow” biomedical
model (which is what most people first think of when they think about health). The
simple exercise we had about “What causes us stress?” helped to demonstrate how each
community‟s needs vary in different settings. For instance, the exercise showed us that
the residents of Toronto did not have the same “problems” as residents of east Detroit
(i.e. drug dealing or poor mode of transportation). It was clearly evident from such
exercises that it is so critical to design programs that would actually serve the
community‟s individual needs directly and not just what the „outsiders bring‟ and believe
what is important.
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        Having been to Detroit certainly has re-emphasized the overall theme of our class,
which is that places matter (as Fitzpatrick would put it)! By comparing the physical
environment of Detroit to Toronto, it was evident that residents of east Detroit had poorer
health status than those living in Toronto. For instance, there were no large grocery
supermarkets seen in east Detroit. Instead, they had several local „variety‟ stores which
sold food, beer and lottery tickets all in one place. T. explained to us the lack of fresh
produce at such stores, and poor access to transportation, had limited resident‟s chances
of accessing fresh food. To meet such challenges, one of the programs implemented by
the Eastside Village Health Workers was to set up fresh produce „mini-markets‟ so that
residents can buy fresh produces at very affordable prices (six apples for $1.00). This
program was surely designed to benefit the community and was not profit-driven.
However, T. emphasized that the timing of setting up the market was just as important as
the location of it. For instance, they deliberately set up the market date on the first day of
each month because this was when most people got their pay checks from work (hence,
they would have money to buy groceries instead of on the last days of the month).

        Throughout this trip, I have observed several ways in how the CBPR efforts of
Detroit can be applied to Toronto‟s urban health problems. It was great to see the strong
partnership and collaborative efforts between the community centers and local university
departments. Even though each program had specific individual goals, they all agreed on
the common objective which was to conduct research in order to benefit the community.
The research they had carried out was „relevant‟ in that it addressed the issues that would
benefit the community. This strong partnership and networks were certainly things that
we could apply to programs in Toronto. This was evident when they presented us with
the „results of the 1996 survey‟ conducted by the Eastside Village Health workers. To
assess the needs of that community, community leaders/residents, and not researchers,
were trained to conduct interviews with the residents of Detroit. This led to greater
comfort for the participants in the study. In addition, the results of the survey were later
distributed to all those who had participated in the survey in a very clear and concise
manner (e.g. use of pie graphs).

        I was also very impressed with how the staff was not just concerned about the
well-being of the people that they were serving, but also the well being of their staff
members. They explained that the staff can get easily burnt out from constantly facing
new obstacles (i.e. lack of funding); however, to meet such challenges, they had
organized many „leadership workshops‟ and plenty of celebrations so that they could
maintain their high energy and enthusiasm throughout this long-process. In addition,
some programs (e.g. REACH) were specifically designed to reduce health disparities of
racial and ethnic minorities in Detroit. Hence, their methods can be helpful to situations
in Toronto, since it is such a multicultural city.

        In addition to all the new knowledge that I have gained from this trip, this trip will
always remain as one of my best experiences at the University of Toronto simply because
it was a lot of fun. By being in a van with my classmates for five hours, it was a perfect
opportunity to get to know each other better and have several discussions ranging in a
variety of topics including social policies, our favorite types of food, and favorite musical
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groups. The pictures that I took during the trip say it all. This trip has not only let me
bond with my classmates, but it has made what we‟d like to achieve in Toronto more
vivid and concrete. As my final remarks, I would sincerely like to thank all the Detroit
URC members and the Wellesley hospital for kindly providing us with the opportunity to
have such an unforgettable experience.
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        Community-Based Participatory Research: Overnight Trip to Detroit

                                     Response Paper

                                         Victoria

         On January 23rd and 24th our class embarked on an overnight visit to Detroit with
the goal of observing and gaining information on the successful implementation of
community-based participatory research and community-academic partnerships and
initiatives. Throughout this course, we have conceptualized „health‟ in the broadest sense,
looking at how social, structural, and place-based characteristics shape and influence
health and well being. Our visit to Detroit provided one of our first „in the field‟
exposures to urban health problems, social disadvantage and how community
organizations have attempted to address and meet the needs of their communities. Both
researchers and community workers are fighting to better the lives of residents in east and
southwest Detroit. By giving „voice‟ to the concerns of the community and providing
services, education and support, they ensure that all actions and interventions they
undertake in the community are grounded in the everyday experiences and reality of the
neighbourhood.

        On the more personal note, the „windshield tour‟ and visits to the community
organizations were eye opening, showing us, as students from Toronto, both the positive
and negative things happening in the city. It was exciting to see the types of interventions
and activities being organized to empower women and encourage education, health and a
sense of community. Our „tour guide‟ Maria was incredible! Her insights into what east
and southwest Detroit is, was and could possibly be was something I never would have
experienced looking in as an „outsider‟. Between our visits to the Butzel Family Center,
Warren Conner Development Center, the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation and
CHASS, Maria shared stories of her family, her life and her community. The fear of
gentrification, the loss of jobs to suburban residents, the influx of governmental support
to revitalize downtown Detroit through revamped stadiums and new condo development
while community organizations struggle to secure funding and encourage new
employment, health and economic opportunities for the residents were themes touched
upon in our tour. Seeing this environment through a sociological lens put a lot of the
theories of inequality, race relations and urban sociology that I‟ve been reading over the
years into a „real world‟ context.

        In the second half of our day, we had the opportunity to speak with Professor
Barbara Israel, Amy Schulz and T, all researchers affiliated with the University of
Michigan‟s Urban Research Center. Strategies for organizing and implementing
community-based participatory research were discussed. It was exciting to hear
academics, those work we were familiar with, talk about the experiences, challenges,
successes and rewards they gained through the research process (stories and information
that cannot be found in a journal article!). I was also impressed by how the findings and
information gathered in their studies were used to organize very successful community
interventions and support. Another prominent theme was the „scientific‟, systematic
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nature of community-based research. Despite criticism, this research methodology IS
concerned with the representativeness of the sample and with accurately recording and
conveying the ideas and experiences of their research subjects. The passion, enthusiasm
and pride these researchers have for their work was evident and contagious.

         In conclusion, I would like to thank Robert McGranaghan and Maria Salinas, our
hosts, Professor Berry and the Wellesley Central Health Corporation, who financed our
trip. In my opinion, this was a very worthwhile trip. As we enter the critical phase of this
course, the research project, it was exciting to see a vivid example of how and why place
matters, brining our earlier readings and theoretical framework to life.
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Jonathan Ho                                                                   Feb 3, 2002
SOC394Y1
Professor Brent Berry


                                                                                   The
                               Journey to Detroit
         I would first like to thank Professor Berry for giving us the opportunity to enjoy
an educational and exciting trip to Detroit. This was definitely one of the highlights of my
long and boring university life. There aren‟t too many courses where the class can
interact with each other like we did on this trip. My only complaint is that we did not
have enough time to really explore Detroit. It seemed as if we spent more time driving in
the car then we did learning about the city. Things were too rushed, and we were all quite
exhausted from the tedious traveling hours. Yet I also blame my tiredness on getting
drunk and staying out late at the casino the night before. If this is done again next year, it
might be more beneficial to make the visit two nights instead of one. However, despite
the little time we spent on this exhausting journey, it was still very interesting and
enjoyable.

        Before traveling to Detroit, I believed that all the stereotypes about the
horrendous living conditions and high crime rates were over-exaggerated by movies such
as “8 Mile”. However, after traveling through the city, I learned that all these stereotypes
were indeed real. The high infant mortality rate of 14.7 deaths per 1000 live births is of
no surprise to me. Living in the treacherous conditions that urban women live in must
have a serious impact on the survival rates of newborn babies. It was particular
interesting to note during the tour that the one water park that was recently built into the
community was placed directly beside the huge Chrysler factory. The thing that caught
my attention with this factory was the polluting fumes and smoke that was being omitted
into the air where the water park and surrounding playgrounds were situated. The dark
clouds in the atmosphere represented the high rates of pollution, which would definitely
have a profound effect on the health of community members. This is the most probable
cause for the high asthma rates in Detroit. The high crime rates are also a reason for high
infant mortality. When we drove by one of the big intersections in the city, we observed
that one of the traffic lights was covered with dolls. Our tour guide, Maria suggested that
these dolls represented a child that was murdered in gang-related activity. She claimed
that accidental shootings of children were quite common in the Inner City. It was just a
matter of being “caught at the wrong place at the wrong time”.

        The bulletproof windows at the gas station and the high security levels at the
community centers that we visited were also indicators of the high crime rates in Detroit.
It was interesting to observe the barbed-wire gates that protected one of the community
centers. It was also interesting to note driving out of this community center all the
garbage in the front yards of neighbourhood houses. Maria explained that all this garbage
was picked up only once a month. Therefore, garbage simply accumulated in the
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neighbourhood until it looked like a dumpster of its own. The high number of boarded
windows and the high number of broken traffic lights that we passed also demonstrated
substantial poverty rates. I asked Mario why there were so many factories and houses that
had boarded windows, and she explained that they were due to the inhumane activities
that occur. They were also indicators of abandoned houses and factories, and maybe even
a form of protection and seclusion from the horrific conditions of the Inner City.

        There is absolutely no comparison when we look at the urban conditions in places
such as St. James Town. It seems as if the community in St. James Town was much more
diverse than Detroit. Walking through the street of St. James Town, one can observe the
unity and the interaction between the ethnic residents. This was not seen in Detroit, where
most of the streets were completely emptied. It was difficult to observe the connection
between community members because most residents stayed in their homes.

       In a community where poverty, pollution, and crime seem to dominate, it is
comforting to know that there are people who actually try to make a difference in the
world. I would like to thank Robert, Amy, Barbara, Maria, and the other presenters for
sharing their excellent insights and knowledge about Detroit. I would also like to give
recognition to the delicious food that was served during their presentation. It is
encouraging and motivating to learn about all the excellent interventions, projects, and
programs that have been created to make Detroit a better city. It will be very beneficial to
incorporate some of these ideas into our own urban health study of Toronto.
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               Reflection Of The Trip To Detroit

                                   Denise Gordon


The class trip to Detroit was a wonderful experience. I learned so much about the people
who live in this American city and what they have to go through. I‟ve been to Detroit
before and I saw a couple of not so good areas but I had no idea that it could worst. I
didn‟t realize that there so many abandoned buildings and rows of houses as well as
single houses that were around. I know that when I heard about abandoned houses I
thought, yeah right, how could there be so many houses with nobody living in them, but
it was the case. I also wandered if there wasn‟t a high demand for housing that they had
hoses that people didn‟t live in. Then there were many patches of open voids in the
middle of a row of residential houses. I‟m not exactly sure what that means but I guess
that it means that there is not enough money to take of old buildings so they just tear then
down in hopes of future funding.

One thing that I thought was really amazing was the genuine care that these community
researchers and workers had for the people of their city. I thought that it was amazing.
They much of they daily live trying to help people that they may not even know. The
work that they do sometimes interrupts their personal lives. I know that it can be a strain
but it is something that they are willing to do for the time being. There community
workers are not being paid as much as then can be in other jobs but yet they want to see
their specific community and city strive to be better and to have a special pride in where
they are from.

Before this trip, I had no idea that many parts of Detroit was in such bad conditions.
Even the fact that they didn‟t even have a grocery store was absurd and deploring. How
can a city, especially with young children who need to learn healthy eating habits in order
to have a longer and healthy life, not have proper access to a grocery store. This is
ridiculous. People like me who live in the suburbs take grocery store for granted. I never
really thought that the grocery store would be something that me or my family would not
have access to. Many people who live in Detroit don‟t have access to vehicles to drive
out of the city to buy fresh fruits and veggies. These people have to rely on corner stores
that are first of all expensive but also they tend to have food that is expired and not even
that good for you. I thought that T‟s idea of the market that comes at the beginning of the
month was a fabulous idea. People in the community can buy a lot of food for their
family that is fresh and healthy and at a great, affordable price. T told us that they have
this market at the beginning of the month because many people who use the market are
on social assistance and at the beginning of the month is when they have the most money.
Having a grocery store available or grocery food available is important to health eating.
Living off of fast food restaurants is not cool.
                                            16


I asked Robert about the ethnic make up of the police service in Detroit because I realize
that there is a large group of African Americans that reside there. Also there is a
significant group of Hispanic people, especially in the south west side of Detroit, as well
as other represented ethnicities. He told me that the police force was largely African
American.

These community workers seem to be good people. I hope that in Toronto that we can
develop some good programs for the people in need. I don‟t think that Toronto has as
many bad areas or abandoned areas but people are in need for better services and
facilities. Community togetherness is needed for these CBPR initiatives to really work
out. I hope in the future that such initiative will be common place in Toronto until a
better method is discovered.

The people that took the time to help us were wonderful.
                                            17


Mike Vansickle
                                 Detroit Reaction Paper.



Our trip to Detroit was a very eye opening educational experience. When we first
arrived in Detroit I didn‟t think that it was too much different from any other city that I
had seen before. But as we drove to the Butzel family center in the East Side of Detroit, it
became very evident that Detroit had a very unique problem. The first thing that got my
attention was the amount of boarded up buildings. Not only were these buildings houses,
but a majority of the buildings were former commercial outlets which had all closed
down. Every type of commercial outlet including restaurants to gas stations had been
closed. But the fact that no new business had moved into the commercial real estate
showed how serious the problem was. This showed how little money there really was
among the local residents. But later in the trip I learned that there was an 86% dropout
rate in Detroit high schools. If you combine this with the fact that Detroit is heavily
reliant on manufacturing industries, which has experienced significant technological
gains, the problems become very acute. Since the technological changes increase the
need for more highly skilled workers. Since there is an 86% drop out rate, most of the
employment opportunities available in Detroit cannot be given to local community
members since they do not have the required education. This scenario creates an
environment of high unemployment with no tax base. With no revenues being generated
through taxes, the municipal government is unable to inject needed money into
community programs and urban development. Even with these very acute problems
within the city‟s communities, there still seemed to be a lot of community organization.
The Butzel center acted as a one-stop shop for community members providing access to
necessary health resources. The amount of love and dedication that these community
leaders exemplified was incredible. It was the only thing making a difference and
without it, Detroit would have been in such a state of despair. Every different community
leader that we met was incharge of half a dozen community programs offering
community member‟s access to health information of self-treatment for diabetes, and
obesity. One of the most impressive programs I thought was the mini-grocery store that
provided healthy, fresh produce wholesale prices to ensure that at the very least, people
with hardly any money can have the bare essentials to live. But even with all this effort, I
felt like they were just now starting to gain some momentum. I felt like there were a lot
community members whose lives depended on these free services. The physical aspects
of Detroit compared to Toronto where grossly noticeable. Some of the most notable
differences were garbage pick-up. With large garbage pick-up only occurring once a
month, it left many houses with littered front yards of couches, kitchen sinks and broken
doors, creating an atmosphere of incredible deterioration. One point mentioned on the
trip, which I found very concerning was the fact that public schools didn‟t offer any
extra-curricular activities or school sports teams. Pollution was a very serious problem in
Detroit as well. One community had 6000 trucks driving through it every day with
another 16000 more proposed. These difference alone compared to Toronto would create
a really unhealthy environment. There did however seem to be an infinite amount of
hope and potential among all the community leaders that we met. Great expectation was
                                             18


in the thoughts of all those who spoke of the new major. At the end of the trip I felt that I
had learned a lot and realized how much I take for granted.

				
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