Families & Community

Families & Community
6:00 am
Wed September 17, 2014

Many Michigan cities are reporting a drop in homicides so far this year. Can the trend last?

Credit flickr/diversey

The numbers are down 30% in Flint.

They were down 70% in Saginaw through July. Down 66% in Grand Rapids through June. Down 14% in Detroit, and on pace for the lowest annual total in decades.

The reports are preliminary, but homicides in many of Michigan’s cities are way down compared to last year.

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Families & Community
11:58 am
Mon September 15, 2014

Michigan gets an "F" in consumer debt protection

Credit National Consumer Law Center

Michigan law allows up to 25 percent of a workers paycheck to be garnished for credit card debt. It's one of 20 states that do not protect wages above the federal minimum of 75 percent of take-home pay once a person has judgment for non-payment of debt against them.

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Families & Community
6:44 am
Wed September 10, 2014

"I want people to not be afraid to reach out and help someone else."

Joy Mohammed and Paris Brown
Credit Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

People who manage to overcome poverty in childhood don't succeed by accident. They work hard, of course, but usually, they also have some help.  And often, that help can be traced back to one person who decided to make a difference.

We're running an occasional series about the people who make that decision. We’re calling this series, "One Person Who Cared." To share your story of the One Person Who Cared, click here

Joy Mohammed and Paris Brown are loosely connected through family. They met once at a wedding. Then they became neighbors in the Russell Woods neighborhood of Detroit. Mohammed, who is nine years older than Brown, helped tutor her with schoolwork, and checked up on her at her house.

"I wouldn’t call myself a visitor. I was snooping," Mohammed says with a laugh. "I was watching to make sure that the kids were okay."

"Were you?" I ask Brown.

"Um, no …"

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Families & Community
12:22 pm
Tue September 9, 2014

Did you experience foster care in Michigan? We want to hear from you.

Credit user Peter Lindberg / flickr

There are more than 13,000 youth in foster care in Michigan at any given time. There's no way we could possibly interview anywhere close to that number, but if we could, we would no doubt hear some heartwarming stories about being in care, some horror stories, and everything in between. 

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Families & Community
12:18 pm
Mon September 8, 2014

It's not just you. New data confirms economic recovery not reaching most families

Credit photosteve101 / flickr

The release of new economic data is about as exciting as spam email.

The New York Times Upshot blog makes the case that the newest set of data is something to spend some real time with, so here we go:

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Families & Community
11:13 am
Fri September 5, 2014

Friday news roundup: Camden renewal, suburban poverty, and elite colleges

Credit user photosteve101 / flickr

If you're like me, you probably don't have a lot of spare time. So in an effort to make things easier for you, here's a roundup of some articles from the week that our State of Opportunity team found interesting. Happy reading!

How one poor inner city managed to turn things around

I've been thinking about this story from the New York Times all week. It's a story about hope and renewal. Just about everybody – politicians, police, residents – had written off Camden, N.J. In the summer of 2012, there were 21 murders in Camden, the highest homicide rate in the city's history. Fast forward two years, and the homicide rate this summer was six. 

It has been 16 months since Camden took the unusual step of eliminating its police force and replacing it with a new one run by the county. Beleaguered by crime, budget cuts and bad morale, the old force had all but given up responding to some types of crimes.

The results are encouraging. Read the full article to see how Camden is fast becoming an example of how it's not impossible to turn things around.

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Families & Community
1:11 pm
Tue September 2, 2014

Want out of poverty? Move.

Credit flickr/heatherweaver

In the summer of 1994, my family hitched a U-Haul trailer to the back of my mom's Ford LTD station wagon and drove it to the other side of the country. We went just about as far as you can go without a passport – from the coast of Oregon to central Florida. 

In Oregon, we were surrounded by friends and family, but we were poor. We lived in a public housing project. We paid for our groceries with food stamps. My mom was a part-time community college student, with a daycare business on the side. My dad worked on the back of a fishing boat. My mom wanted to get her bachelor's degree. My dad wanted a job with more stability. Neither could find what they were looking for in North Bend, Oregon in 1994. So we moved. 

The move took us from the mild, rain-soaked Pacific Northwest to the sweltering humidity of the Florida summer in a matter of weeks. I had to learn how to say things like "y'all" and "my bad." I ate grits, and I didn't like them. I missed my old friends, and I was a complete, awkward failure at making new ones. 

It was the best thing that ever happened to me. 

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Families & Community
9:24 am
Wed August 27, 2014

11 years before Ferguson, there was outrage in Benton Harbor. Have things changed?

Part of the new arts district in downtown Benton Harbor.
Credit Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

It’s not a new story:

A young black man dies after an encounter with police. A community takes to the streets to demand answers. Their protest turns violent, and the national media takes notice. When calm is restored, there are promises. This time will be different. This time things will change.

That was the scene 11 years ago in Benton Harbor, a scene not unlike today in Ferguson, Missouri.

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Families & Community
1:30 pm
Tue August 19, 2014

Former foster care youth says system "makes you feel disposable"

Credit user Meggy / flickr

"It kind of makes you feel disposable, and that’s not a good feeling at all." 

That's how 22-year-old Jerry Caster describes his time in Michigan's foster care system. Caster bounced around from foster home to foster home starting when he was just 5 years old. He eventually "aged out" of the system when he was 19, and since then he's been alternately homeless or in jail. He wouldn't share with me why he was taken from his parents at the tender age of 5, except to say he suffered some serious trauma and as a result lives with mental illness. 

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Families & Community
1:20 pm
Thu August 14, 2014

"Rich Hill" is the most watchable movie I've seen about poverty

One of the subjects of the film, Andrew Jewell.
Credit Andrew Droz Palermo

We don't do a lot of movie reviews at State of Opportunity. In fact, we've only ever done one.

What makes the documentary Rich Hill worth watching is also what makes it rare and worth talking or writing about.

It is raw and not sentimental, but neither is it hopeless. The film won the top documentary prize at Sundance this year.

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