Drew Philp: My $500 house in Detroit -- and the neighbors who helped me rebuild it
Drew Philp - Journalist, screenwriter
Drew Philp is the author of "A $500 House in Detroit: Rebuilding an Abandoned Home and an American City," a memoir of rebuilding a former abandoned home while finding his place in his city, country, race and generation. Full bio
in Detroit for 500 dollars.
no plumbing, no electricity
10,000 pounds of garbage,
of a Dodge Caravan,
multiple times to gunshots,
from an abandoned school
that school down.
that your hear about.
necessarily adhere to conventional wisdom
boils down to two words:
until I lived there.
no job and no money,
like everyone else was moving out.
of the elementary-aged children.
was down to less than 800,000.
is that people didn't go very far.
metro area itself
since the '70s.
just went to the suburbs,
of the city deteriorated,
as 40 square miles of abandoned land --
and agentless "deindustrialization,"
with two structures:
infrastructure and home loans,
jobs and education dollars.
only certain people could leave.
separate city and suburbs,
of racist housing practices
bombed 10 school buses
the most racially segregated metro area
I wanted to do something --
50 percent of college graduates
my fancy college education at home
American philosopher named Grace Lee Boggs
that I ever did was to stay put."
indelibly tie me to the city
to these walls and freeways.
weren't available to everyone,
to do this without them
over my childhood with power tools.
in a neighborhood called Poletown.
of crippled, abandoned structures
with well-kept homes.
from the baseball stadium downtown,
cardboard boxes left in the rain;
with wide-open shells
I remember were the rosebushes,
over tumbled-down fences,
I boarded it up
and further decay.
from the county in a live auction.
how offensive that is.
was to add my voice to the chorus,
the neighborhood hadn't died.
that was difficult to see
to an incredibly resourceful,
and incredibly resilient community.
the power of radical neighborliness.
on my house before moving in,
named Paul Weertz.
in a Detroit public school
the young women to raise their children
for pregnant teens is about 40 percent,
it was often above 90,
to his block in Poletown,
for more than 30 years,
when they were abandoned,
and neighbors to stay
to buy their own and fix them up.
now only hold one or two houses,
to the power of community,
of one's own surroundings --
live next to white hipsters
from the jungles of Belize,
wasn't just black and white,
when it's encouraged.
for the farm animals on the block,
a small group of people can get done
yet practical ideas.
behind Paul's block burning down,
with trash and despair,
creating a giant circular garden
beehives and garden plots
can often be assets.
with renewable energy and urban farming
and discoveries to others,
have to beg the government
left her front door unlocked
and dangerous cities in America
whenever I needed to go to work,
the beam on my own house
recycling factory down the street
was left standing --
showed up to help lift it, Amish style.
that grows into a worldview
rebuilt in ways that respect humanity
to create the world anew together
when our governments refuse.
don't hear much about.
the ruin porn on one hand
saving the city on the other.
the same mistakes of the past.
I didn't know I was looking for --
back to cities are looking for.
another word for true community,
built over years and irreplaceable.
from the ashes of despair,
of those who fled are returning,
is reaching most Detroiters,
areas of the city.
that have been in Detroit for generations
houses in Detroit
a violation of human rights.
has been foreclosed in the city,
about the size of Buffalo, New York.
a crisis of personal responsibility;
is now returning to the city itself
to go anywhere in Detroit
completely made of white people.
for conventional economic resurgence.
two classes of citizens,
and slick advertisements
to tens of thousands of people
comes at the cost of community,
who have lost their homes
of our own humanity as well.
we aren't inadvertently contributing
on these problems for years.
for those who have lost access to it.
engaging in civil disobedience
foreclosed homes for their inhabitants
on forced sales through social media
to raise the beams
those with privilege,
a small group of neighbors decides
in our own communities.
of the world that you want to live in.
who know the problems best --
because I have lived it.
maligned cities in the world.
or plumbing or carpentry --
of what it means to be a neighbor.
abandoned house into a home.
About the speaker:Drew Philp - Journalist, screenwriter
Drew Philp is the author of "A $500 House in Detroit: Rebuilding an Abandoned Home and an American City," a memoir of rebuilding a former abandoned home while finding his place in his city, country, race and generation.
Why you should listen
Drew Philp is a freelance writer living in his rehabbed house and most often covers inequity in the Midwest for the Guardian. He has hitchhiked the Rustbelt to speak with average Americans about changing manhood and walked to Cleveland from Detroit to speak to postindustrial trump supporters in pursuit of stories. Philp has also been published in BuzzFeed, The Detroit Free Press, De Correspondent and other national and international outlets.
In 2009, Philp bought an abandoned house in Detroit with no windows, plumbing or electricity, which was filled with 10,000 pounds of trash. Living without heat for nearly two years, fighting wild packs of dogs, and harvesting materials from the often burning neighborhood, Philp repaired the house with his own hands and the help of his dynamic community. He lives there with his dog Gratiot.
Philp has also hitchhiked the US, co-taught a class on race to all white students at the University of Michigan, written scripts in the film industry and taught for many years inside prisons and juvenile justice institutions across the state. His accolades include the Stuart and Vernice Gross award for literature, an 11th Hour Food and Farming Fellowship facilitated by Michael Pollan and a 2017 Kresge Arts in Detroit fellowship.
Drew Philp | Speaker | TED.com