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Families & Community

Gaurav Pandit

Feral cats have become a serious problem in Genesee County.

The cats can be seen all over the county's towns.

Cats can reproduce up to four times a year with an average litter of six. So officials and animal activists have been pushing residents to spay and neuter their cats. 

Jody Maddock is the program director for Adopt-a-Pet in Fenton. She said the problem has really gotten out of hand.

Laura Robinson

Exploratory oil drilling could come to Scio Township, near Ann Arbor, soon. But a community group has a filed a lawsuit to try to prevent it.

Citizens for Oil-Free Backyards filed the lawsuit against the oil company, West Bay Exploration, and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

The group claims that DEQ did not follow its own rules meaningfully when considering the drilling permit.

Laura Robinson heads the group.  

Wikimedia Commons

In a story we aired yesterday on European prisons, we learned the apparent key to reducing recidivism. In Europe, keeping family ties intact is priceless.

There’s a juvenile justice plan in Berrien County that’s been applying these principles since 2001, strengthening family ties, and keeping young offenders out of jail when possible.

And their approach is paying off.

Elvin Gonzalez is the family Division Administrator for the Berrien County Trial Court.

He said that when looking at the youth who come into to court to look at their family system.

“Many of the factors that contributed to them being logged with delinquency came from two primary domains, their family domain and their school domain,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said that it was important to address both of those domains and provide interventions that target those areas, strengthen the families’ ability to supervise, effectively monitor and discipline, and support their children.

“Our belief is, is that kids live in an ecology. That ecology is their family system, their neighborhood, their community, their school and we needed to impact those areas to help youth be successful in our communities," Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez added that while they are trying to fix the source of the youth’s actions, accountability for those actions are not forgotten.

The county has seen a lot of success with their programs. In 2001, more than 125 youths were in out-of-home residential placements throughout Michigan. Today, that number has dropped to about 40 youths.

Recidivism has dropped from more than 58% in 1998 to 17.5% in 2012. 

“It’s important that we help kids learn various skills, be more effective in managing conflict, make better decisions – but ultimately, at the end of the day, we need to move the needle on recidivism,” Gonzalez said.

*Listen to full interview above.

krossbow / flickr

No matter the season, if you live in Michigan, water isn't far away.

The Great Lakes. One of Michigan's 11,000 inland lakes. A river, like the Manistee or Au Sable.

Traverse Magazine invited five Northern Michigan women writers to share their thoughts on water. Two of those writers join us today on Stateside from Interlochen Public Radio.

Anne-Marie Oomen grew up on a farm near Lake Michigan. She says that besides understanding from the very beginning the reliance of agriculture on water, she felt related to water in a spiritual way.

Fleda Brown recalls fond memories of summer times spent near Michigan lakes as a child. “Driving up from Arkansas … and getting closer and closer to the lake and the woods, the first glimpse of water I saw through the trees was like miracle,” she said.

* Listen to full interview above.

user: dbphotography / Flickr

This week, State of Opportunity's Jennifer Guerra explored language and discrimination. She talked to Robin Queen, a linguist who teaches a class about it at the University of Michigan.

From Guerra's story:

Queen says people often think there's one right way to speak, what linguists call Standard American English, or "The Standard," and everyone else is doing it wrong.

"Who gets to decide they can police someone else's language?" asks Queen. "I mean, when did we get to this point that shaming people for their language is fine?"

Remember the George Zimmerman trial last year? You probably read headlines about it somewhere, or maybe watched coverage of it on TV.

If you got to hear any of the testimony, you may remember Rachel Jeantel. She's a young, African-American woman who was the primary witness for the prosecution, and was on the phone with Trayvon Martin on the day he died. 

When Jeantel began speaking, people both in and out of the courtroom focused on the way she spoke.

Why? 

Check out Guerra's piece. You can watch testimony from the Zimmerman trial and read about a study from MSU on language and discrimination that has some surprising results. 

-- Lucy Perkins, Michigan Radio Newsroom

One of the photos archived on Dickson's blog. This graffiti, in Dickson's word, "does a pretty solid job depicting the city’s main roads."
James David Dickson / Down I-94: a blog about Detroit

"Say Nice Things About Detroit."

That cheery slogan was first launched in the '70s by Emily Gail. She had a shop in downtown Detroit when it was the murder capital of the country, and she grabbed a lot of attention with that slogan.

Now it’s been revived, as Detroit has been under the spotlight of bankruptcy and the "Grand Bargain."

James David Dickson, a commentary editor at the Detroit News, believes the chirpy slogan isn't helping anyone in Detroit or the city itself. His opinion piece "Why I refused to say nice things about Detroit" was on the Detroit News blog.

There are over 43,000 pictures in the interactive from The New York Times.
Screen shot of NYT interactive

I timed myself and it took me a minute and 21 seconds to scroll through the images of Detroit's blight. Initially, I didn't even read any of the analysis that The New York Times provided, I just scrolled. 

The Times has done several interactive pieces on blight in Detroit. There's been a wealth of data since the Detroit Blight Removal Task Force Plan was published.

This one really makes you realize how vast the city's housing problem actually is.

Their analysis breaks blight up geographically with different anecdotes and facts. Here are two examples:

7 Mile Road:

While most of the properties on the foreclosure list were residential, about 5 percent were sites of former businesses, of which a majority were vacant lots or unoccupied structures. Many were formerly gas stations, auto body shops and car washes. 

Lenox Street:

Ronald Ford Jr. says he has struggled to find work as a laborer and to pay his bills, let alone the $7,000 in property taxes that he now owes. His family bought the house in 1969, and his mother made the final mortgage payment years ago. But he said they stopped paying the taxes after she grew ill and moved into a nursing facility.  

-- Lucy Perkins, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Brian Wybenga

All this week, Michigan Radio and the  Detroit Journalism Cooperative are looking at city services and quality of life issues in the city of Detroit. Michigan Radio's assistant news director, Sarah Hulett, is a Detroit resident and brings us this essay about living with crime. 

If you’re on the fence about staying in Detroit or moving out, there’s an absurd and irrational sort of calculus you do when it comes to crime.

The National Cherry Festival in Traverse City runs from July 5 through July 12.
User: Michigan Municipal League / flickr

Sometimes too much of a good thing is, well, too much.

That seems to be what some residents and city commissioners in Traverse City are thinking about the upcoming National Cherry Festival, and the many other festivals that draw visitors to Traverse City through the year.

In short, some of the locals are starting to push back. It’s been dubbed “festival fatigue.” Some residents complain in particular about the Cherry Festival in a downtown park called the “Open Space” that runs along Grand Traverse Bay. They grumble about noise, trash, and crowds.

User: Firesmile / flickr

The United Nations says recent water shutoffs at the homes of poor Detroiters are a violation of international human rights.

That came after a letter was sent this week to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The letter came from a coalition of welfare rights groups. They accuse Detroit's water department of putting poor people at risk with mass shutoffs.

Back in March, the city began to shut off water service to more than 150,000 delinquent customers who collectively owed more than $118 million.

One of the groups appealing to the United Nations is the Blue Planet Project, based in Ottawa, Ontario. We were joined today by its founder Maude Barlow.

via city of Detroit

A group of Detroit residents says a developer is trying to throw them out of homes he doesn’t even own.

Developer Peter Barclae built the Gratiot McDougall Homes in 2006 with the help of federal grant money.

The homes were built specifically for Detroit participants in the federal HOME Investment Partnerships program, run by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

PublicDomainPictures / pixabay.com

As we watch Baby Boomers swell the ranks of America’s senior citizens, how are cities and towns preparing for them?

How will Boomers reshape cities and what can cities do to look ahead and plan for what seniors will need?

Bradley Winick is the founder of the Planning/Aging consulting firm and adjunct professor of urban planning at the University of Illinois in Chicago.

Winick said that while many of the issues that Baby Boomers are facing are the same as issues for previous seniors, one major difference is economic circumstance.

For Baby Boomers, the recession challenged the assumption of flexibility.

“I think a lot of folks felt that they had this fabulous financial nest egg, which was largely in their home,” Winick said.

However, when the economy changes and the lending climate changes, your home is only worth how much someone is willing to pay you for it.

“I think the impact of that manifests itself in a number of ways in respects to how our communities will look in the future,” Winick said.

Winick added that when a city is planning for an older population, it’s important to make sure the city makes the community livable for all ages but also takes a close look at the availability and accessibility of pharmacies, grocery stores and transportation.

*Listen to full interview above. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The city of Lansing is launching an effort to coordinate programs aimed at improving the lives of young people, especially children of color.

Mayor Virg Bernero says the community must work together to provide better opportunities for children and young adults.

The Cerebral Palsy Swagger / Facebook

To say it was a story that captured the hearts of the world is no exaggeration.

Fourteen-year-old Hunter Gandee was searching for a way to call attention to cerebral palsy and its challenges because he’d seen his little brother, Braden living with it for all of his seven years.

Hunter carried his brother on his back for 40 miles, from their hometown in Temperance, Michigan to the University of Michigan Wrestling Center. They called it the Cerebral Palsy Swagger.

The trip was not easy for Hunter, but he said it wasn’t easy for his younger brother either, who suffered chafing on his inner thighs from being carried.

“We weren’t sure if we were going to make it,” Hunter said. He said the plan was to push Braden in a stroller, but fortunately they didn’t have to.

“We called a few friends and I had a friend pray for me over the phone,” Hunter said.

They also had input from a therapist and physical therapist on how to fix Braden’s sling. After the help, the journey was much easier.

Braden and Hunter’s mother said the real story is not what the boys did, but the people who helped along the way.

“If Hunter would have walked and nobody paid attention, it wouldn’t have made a difference,” Danielle Gandee said. “It’s everybody else that paid attention and wanted to hear more and wanted to learn more that actually made it a story.”

Hunter is now fighting to get Braden's school playground completely reconstructed so that he can play with his friends.  Hunter also said he wants to study biomedical engineering at the University of Michigan and build mobility aids for people with CP or other disabilities.

You can follow Hunter’s effort on the Facebook page the Cerebral Palsy Swagger, or you can follow their blog.

*Listen to full story above. 

Inside the Arab American National Museum.
www.accesscommunity.org

Earlier this month there was the annual anti-Islam rally in Dearborn (although more cops than actual protestors showed up.) 

A few days before that, police investigated the burning of several Qurans outside a local Mosque. 

 And in February, an Arab-American man won more than $1 million dollars in a lawsuit over the religious and racial harassment he said he suffered at work.  

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

A group of organizations in Detroit announced that today they got official word they'll be sharing around $50 million in federal funds over the course of five years for early childhood education programs.

College: The forms. The deadlines. All the hard decisions

Jun 13, 2014

When you know exactly what you want to study, whittling down the list of colleges can be a little easier. It was for me; by my junior year in high school, I knew I wanted a career in the sciences, so I ended up applying to schools that had strong biology and chemistry programs. 

And now, I'm a journalist (who likes writing about science, of course.) Go figure. 

Steve Stecconi felt the same way - he knew he wanted to study engineering, and geared his search, and the mounds of paperwork, in that direction. 

User: Ryan Ruppe / flickr

​If you get the sense that your house is becoming increasingly crammed with "stuff", it might be time to declutter.

And that could mean a garage sale.

If you do it right, a garage sale can be a total win-win: You get rid of stuff you really don't need anymore. And you get money!

Writer Micki Maynard not only trolls her way through garage and estate sales around the country, she holds garage sales at her Ann Arbor home two or three times a year.

She joined us today with some tips for a successful sale.

Incompetence? Detroit schools lose Head Start funds

Jun 10, 2014

The idea behind Head Start is fairly simple: Preschool education for the nation's most disadvantaged kids. The program turns 50 next year. There are reams of documentation celebrating its success.

So, why did Detroit Public Schools, where four of every five children are on school lunch programs, not finish its Head Start application for the upcoming school year? Why are some 900 kids suddenly not getting this "tried and true" educational kick-start?

Homeless
SamPac / creative commons

Advocates for the homeless say getting a state identification card is much too complicated. There are many people who are homeless and are in need. They want to get their lives together, but need legal ID. Without it, they can't get a job, medical help, or housing.

But there can be many obstacles to overcome in order to get a state ID: You need a birth certificate, Social Security card, high school transcripts, a lease, or other documents that most homeless people just don’t have.

Elizabeth Kelly, executive director of Hope Hospitality and Warming Center in Pontiac, and Greg Markus, the founding organizer of the Detroit Action and Commonwealth, discussed the issue on Stateside.

Kelly says one of the issues homeless people face is that some documents, such as Bridge cards – a state-issued benefits card – or IDs issued by homeless shelters,  aren't accepted by the Michigan Secretary of State as proof of identification.

Greg Markus said the state needs to be more sensitive to the problems of the homeless.

Markus says the Secretary of State will now, after a long battle and lawsuit, accept proof of income during the application process, but he adds this will still exclude those who have no income. 

Kelly said the hurdles are keeping many homeless permanently, and forces some to panhandle or other pursuits in order to provide for themselves.

“How we handle and take care of those in need defines us,” Kelly said. “As a society, this is something that cannot be tolerated.”

*Listen to full interview above.

– Bre’Anna Tinsley, Michigan Radio Newsroom.

There’s an effort underway to make sure kids who usually get breakfast at school don’t go hungry in the summer months.

This is the fifth year that nurses at the Detroit Medical Center’s Children’s Hospital have taken up a cereal drive for those at-risk kids.

The drive was the brainchild of Pam Taurence and her colleagues on the Professional Nurse Council.

Taurence says it started in 2010, when the group was trying to come up with an idea for a community service project.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint’s newest church has an unusual mission.

Its goal is to save the neighborhood that surrounds it.

Community Impact Church held its first Sunday service yesterday in a formally abandoned church. The church is surrounded by abandoned homes, blight, and vacant lots filled with weeds.

Pastor Corey James says his Allen Park-based ministry decided to set up in one of Flint’s more distressed northside neighborhoods for a reason: To help people rebuild their neighborhood.

Here's what it's like to live off tips in Michigan

May 28, 2014
Andrew Stawarz / flickr

Denise Gleich is a 30-year veteran of the restaurant industry in Michigan.

She's raised three daughters on the wages and tips she earned, but says the industry has changed and she wants out. 

Tipped workers will make 60% less than minimum wage under legislation Governor Snyder signed into law on Tuesday. 

The majority of tipped workers are women.

I took the State of Opportunity story booth to a recent gathering of women talking about economic security.

Gleich was the first woman to walk into that room.

Read and listen to her story here.

Image made by Mark Brush

For the last two weeks, people in Michigan have shared their reasons for staying in the state.

We asked people to publish images that capture why they stay after a Gallup poll showed that 37% of us would rather live somewhere else.

This was a project with 10 other public radio stations spread across the country. We all asked our audience members to use the hashtag #whyIstay when sharing a picture.

Thousands of people shared their reasons for living where they do.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A new report is raising questions about how Michigan's child welfare system treats minorities.

The report finds African-Americans, Latinos, and Native American children are more likely than white children to be removed from their homes.  

Minorities are also twice as likely to age out of the foster care system as whites.

Former State Rep. Lynn Jondahl is one of the co-chairs of the Michigan Race Equity Coalition.  

A new voice at State of Opportunity

May 13, 2014

I've lived in Michigan for five years, reporting on public health, urban life and community development for the Detroit Free Press. Those five years happen to have been some of the state's worst, economically and spiritually.

How one teen escaped gang life in Detroit

May 7, 2014

Jennifer Guerra from the State of Opportunity team talks to one young man who says advice from his mom and hope for his brothers made a difference in his decision to leave gang life behind.

Helping Michigan's homeless and runaway youth

May 2, 2014
Doug Coombe / Issue Media Group

Children make up a significant portion of Michigan's 86,000 homeless people. How are we helping young runaway and homeless youth have better outcomes?

More than 38,000 children in Michigan are living on their own, left to their own devices and fending for themselves (American’s Youngest Outcasts, 2010). The common national number is 1.7 million, often quoted when talking about homeless youth under the age of 18.

State of Opportunity Reporter Dustin Dwyer shares his thoughts on why a viral video of hockey player Jordin Tootoo giving his stick away to an eagerly awaiting kid makes him sad. It has to do with the young woman in the upper right part of the frame.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

At the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, 11-year-old Brianna Allgood is being tested by a machine called a spirometer. It measures her breathing.

Brianna has asthma. Sometimes she has difficulty breathing. Most of us would have a hard time imagining what that’s like.

“It feels like your chest starts tightening and you’re like and you can’t really breathe much air,” Brianna said. 

Vickie Elliot is Brianna’s grandmother. She says she finds herself checking in on Brianna – a lot – just to make sure she’s breathing okay.

“Having a child like that in the home is scary because anything could happen,” Elliot said.

Brianna is luckier than some kids with asthma. Her family can get her to the clinic. They now know how to treat the asthma.

Elliott says it’s made a difference.

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