Residents of Detroit’s Goldengate neighborhood reported Tuesday that police visited it and ticketed some of the people who are living in abandoned houses they helped make habitable as part of the Goldengate Restoration Project, project member Erik Shelley said.
Shelley, who wasn’t in the neighborhood at the time but spoke to people who were, said the tickets were for “being in a dwelling without permission of the owner.” Ownership of the abandoned houses is cloudy, so it’s uncertain how police determined it. Shelley said police spoke mainly with a resident of the Cat House, named for a dead cat volunteers found inside when they started clearing out rubbish, and implied they would return Wednesday.
“The police entered a number of dwellings, and they didn’t have a warrant,” Shelley said. “That didn’t sound legal to me.”
Last fall, Occupy Detroit accepted an invitation to join a smaller, Fireweed Universe City collective project involving a single house. It’s called the Bottle House because restorers filled a vacant window with empty, colorful glass bottles stacked horizontally. By December, Occupy Detroit had cleared debris from four houses, inside and out, boarded them up to keep out the elements and people who strip out a house’s copper and steel plumbing, and started restoring two of them.
Since then, the project has grown from individual houses to the neighborhood as a whole. It’s an ongoing attempt to build a self-sustaining community with urban farming, recovered and alternative building materials, solar power, cooperative labor, and arts.
“When the weather got nice, more and more people got involved,” Shelley said. “The population of the community is growing. We’re getting a lot of donations, so we’ve installed windows and doors” on all but one of the vacant houses that were scattered through the block: the Dog House. Volunteers buried the Cat House’s namesake in its front yard. Shelley wasn’t asked where the Dog House got its name.