Detroit handed over the first set of keys to one of its 200 homes being given away for free to the city’s police officers Wednesday, in an effort to repopulate and increase safety in the embattled city.
"We are restoring a sense of community and pride in our neighborhoods by encouraging Detroiters to live where they work," said Mayor Dave Bing. "We are rebuilding homes and strengthening neighborhoods with the help of financial institutions."
Just over half of Detroit’s 2,845 officers live outside the city and many believe that the ambitious program, dubbed Project 14, will not only bring more officers back to the city, but improve the quality of the neighborhoods the officers inhabit.
“This is a brilliant program” Professor Melissa Harris-Perry said on MSNBC. "Police officers are valuable in our communities. We want to get them into our communities,"
Assisting the city’s landmark efforts to bring its law enforcement employees back is the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, which announced that it will also help Detroit’s police by providing a $1 million grant to help move nearly 70 police officers and city workers back into the city’s neighborhoods.
"We are restoring a sense of community and pride in our neighborhoods by encouraging Detroiters to live where they work," Bing said Thursday, as news of the grant pledge was announced. "We are rebuilding homes and strengthening neighborhoods with the help of financial institutions who believe in the work we are doing."
The grant will provide the first 10 officers who qualify for a vacant house with $25,000 each for mortgage down payments. An additional 60 officers and city workers will have the opportunity to receive $15,000 each.
"I'm so glad to be here," said William Booker-Riggs, a mayoral bodyguard and the first officer to receive one of the free homes. "Detroit was my home for most of my life, so I'm really happy to be back."
And yet, the free homes are proving to be a hard sell. Since Project 14 was announced in February, the Detroit Free Press reports that only 10 officers have committed.
(Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)