The Dead Zone: Detroit Becomes Urban Wasteland

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DETROIT -- Welcome to Detroit, or what some call "The Dead Zone." It's an area of near-complete destruction many miles across, with no schools or hospitals and few public services.

Crime is the only growth industry, with murder being an everyday occurrence.

"No police, citizens are leaving because crime is very high," the Detroit Police Department's Sgt. John Bennett said. "Those who can leave, are able to leave, they are leaving. Course there are some who cannot leave."

Urban Wasteland

While there is plenty of disagreement on the cause, there's no question on the result. Many urban areas are becoming virtual wastelands.

In Detroit, the official unemployment rate is more than twice the national average, and some city officials say the true rate of joblessness is over 50 percent.

It's a vicious circle. The lack of jobs means loss of tax revenue. In Motor City, that has led to deep cuts in city services, including fire and police.

"We've lost in the police department a thousand officers that haven't been replaced in the last five to six years," said Sgt. Bennet, who has been a city cop for 16 years.

Those officers who remain say they can't protect the city, which now has the highest rate of violent crime in America.

"How do you keep a city safe that has no tax base, and the population is running out the back door, the front door, and the side door?" Bennett asked. "What do you do? How do you stem that tide? What do you do to stop the bleeding?"

Approximately a hundred yards inside the Detroit city limits are over a dozen homes that are either abandoned or burned out. Officials say there are over 45,000 homes in such condition, but the root cause may have less to do with the economic downturn and more to do with government corruption.

More government assistance hasn't helped. Several Detroit companies received bailout funds totaling nearly $100 billion, yet Detroit still has the highest rates of poverty and welfare dependency in the nation."

"I don't know how much longer I'm going to stay honestly. I don't know how much longer I can hang on," Bennett told CBN News.

"Up to this point it's been my commitment, my love of the city, my love of the community, this is my home," he said. "But as one of my co-workers said when she left, 'I love the city, but it didn't love me back.'"

Detroit Rescue Mission

Where the government has failed, private charities are stepping in. One of the largest, Detroit Rescue Mission, provides meals and shelter for thousands of homeless every day.

"The Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries started as a soup kitchen," Rachael Williams, director of Volunteer Services at Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries, told CBN News.

"Now we have progressed to being not only an emergency shelter, but also transitional housing, permanent housing, a treatment center for those suffering from drug and substance abuse and other mental health issues, as well as we have different programs that help to rebuild the city," she said.

Such programs are making a difference for people like Dwayne Tab, who now serves as the facilities supervisor at one of the mission's campuses.

"Ten years ago I came to the Detroit Rescue Mission. I was homeless. I was lost. I was drug addicted," Tab recalled.

"I went in the 90-day treatment, completed treatment, went into transitional housing, which is a two-year program," he continued. "I went to school. I got an associate's degree, continued and got a bachelor's degree, and I continued and got my masters. So I know the Detroit Rescue Mission saves lives!"

In so doing, the Detroit Rescue Mission is serving up more than food and shelter but something else they believe actually has the power to turn the tide in America's inner cities.

"Not only do we provide life skills to these individuals," Williams said. "But we also provide the Word of God, which is the crux of our mission."

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Chuck Holton

Chuck Holton

CBN News Reporter

Chuck Holton has been producing high-octane features and news for CBN since 2003. He has freelance reported from nearly all of the world's hot spots, including Afghanistan, Burma, Lebanon, Iraq, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.