I have different layers of emotion when seeing a house being demolished. First, I think of the original owners of the home. I think about the hours they spent agonizing over the colors of walls, the positions of furniture, and the treatments of windows. I wonder if they are alive. If they drive by occasionally. If they, too, are watching the demolition. And if it breaks their heart.

Then, I think of the house itself. What it’s walls have seen. The warmth, shelter, and home it provided to a number of families. The vines that embraced it’s sides. The confirming creeks and clicks it spoke to its residents in loving confirmation.

Finally, I think of the waste. I think of the careless dumping of all of the lovely pieces of history and home. I think of the space in the earth that they will lay, covered in plastic grocery bags, worn-out shoes, empty tubes of toothpaste. To something as faithful and providing as a home, it seems like such a tragic end. To become a blimp in the underground collection of forgotten things.

Reclaim Detroit offers these physical memories a new place to continue their stories. The organization deconstructs blighted homes to salvage these pieces of history. While doing this, they teach people with barriers to employment how to do this noble work. Following completion of the program, the training graduates are connected to interviews and job openings through career coaches facilitated by Reclaim Detroit. The graduates of the training program that we interviewed for the project were extremely grateful for the experience and opportunity provided to them by Reclaim Detroit.

As one of our fellows so eloquently stated, Reclaim Detroit is “reclaiming lives while reclaiming materials.”