Positive Progress for the Homeless in Detroit

We are thrilled to share this very positive sign of progress and hope on this difficult issue —

Residents of Detroit tent city move to housing

Christine Ferretti, The Detroit News 5:34 p.m. EST January 9, 2015

Detroit — The unofficial mayor and others residing at a makeshift tent city downtown have accepted an offer for refuge, officials confirmed Friday.

After spending seven months at the site on Jefferson, Stephon Charles Jones, the “mayor” of the tent community, agreed to a stable housing arrangement. The campers have moved to a private location within two miles of where they had been residing, said Alexis Wiley, the chief of staff for Mayor Mike Duggan.

Wiley confirmed that Jones and about 10 other campers have taken up the offer facilitated by the Neighborhood Service Organization.

News of the move comes one day after Duggan vowed to continue sending social service workers to the tents to try to move the homeless individuals into buildings. The mayor also stressed that the conditions were not safe and that the city could soon take action on the tented living quarters off east Jefferson Avenue, between Rivard and St. Aubin.

“We’re going to have to solve that,” the mayor told reporters as he toured the North American International Auto Show at Cobo Center on Thursday.

In a Friday phone interview with The News, Jones said he feels good about taking the help and that it was provided to everyone. Initially, he resisted any offers for housing.

“What basically made me change my mind is everybody got the chance to move, not just one individual,” he said. “That’s what I wanted to do.

“I feel good about it,” he said. “Nobody is out in the cold no more.”


A Detroit’s Snapshot: From College-Educated to Homeless

DEADLINE DETROIT  | December 8th, 2014, 9:30 AM

Mark Jacobs, an attorney and longtime community activist, is involved in nonprofit work and is chairman of Heart 2 Hart Detroit, a nonprofit organization that feeds and clothes Detroit’s homeless population. It relies on donations and volunteers. This is the first in a series featuring homeless people in Detroit.

By Mark Jacobs

“I am Detroit,” says J.R. Mills, as he gazes at the Detroit River and looks for answers that do not come. If you had met J.R. 10 years ago, you would think – you would know – that this is exactly the kind of man that will be part of Detroit’s turnaround. J.R. was a rising star: college educated, quick-minded, an infectious smile and a passion to serve his community. He was strong and ambitious, with a loving family and a good job. With a natural gift for gab, J.R. could inspire others and it didn’t take long for people to take notice, from employers to city leaders. J.R. was going places, on the fast track, or so it seemed. But that was before it all crashed, and now he spends his days mostly alone, homeless, injured and frightened, staring at the River and trying to collect his thoughts.

J.R. Mills

J.R. Mills

There was a time when life came easy for J.R. He loved to study and learn new and challenging things. He started college at Wayne State before transferring to the University of Michigan, his dream school. He loved engineering, especially electronic graphic engineering, and landed a job at Delphi and collected numerous advanced vocational certificates.

He was all about helping Detroit, especially people who were down on their luck. He got involved in the Detroit Action Commonwealth, an organization that, ironically, fights poverty, homelessness and injustice. He rose through the ranks and became one of its leaders. Soon he caught the eye of a local councilman, and became a media spokesman. He appeared on tv, including a WDIV commercial for the Detroit Rescue Mission. He believed in the city’s rebirth and thought that he, with all his skills and eastside pride, could play a vital role.

J.R.’s crash was sudden. Several years ago, while waiting for his friends to celebrate his birthday, a scuffle erupted and he got shot in the arm. The wound never quite healed and he had no health insurance. He lost his job, couldn’t find other employment, his benefits ran out and had no long-term place to go. Another casualty in Detroit. Just like that.

Today, J.R.’s life is no longer about the promise of tomorrow; it’s about the daily struggle for survival. “The benches are too scary to sleep on,” he says, “and so I usually go from casino to casino until 6:00 am when I can go to St. Peters for a shower.” He gets many of his meals and clothes from Heart 2 Hart, a local non-profit that aids the homeless.

He wants people to know that there are homeless people like him, people who once were educated, determined, going places. We walk by many of these people and may dismiss them as untidy, unambitious, maybe a drug addict or an ex-con. But among the almost 20,000 homeless Detroiters are many people that don’t fit that mold, people who are literally left out in the cold. “I don’t just speak for myself,” he emphasizes, “I am Detroit.”

J.R. stares at the Detroit River every night and prays. Gazing at the cold water, alone, a long way from the University of Michigan and the bright future he was certain was just around the corner, he asks the Lord for guidance and safety.

And he throws in the one wish that he believes can turn his luck around: “I just want a job.”


Happy Thanksgiving


Lots of turkey sandwiches made with extra love today, along with gloves, handwarmers and other essential items. Hopefully we put some smiles on some cold and hungry folks who are down on their luck. 

Happy Thanksgiving to all!


A Snapshot: The Stories and Faces of Detroit’s Homeless

DEADLINE DETROIT  |  October 19th, 2014, 9:29 PM

Mark Jacobs, an attorney and longtime community activist, is involved in nonprofit work and is chairman of Heart 2 Hart Detroit, a nonprofit organization that feeds and clothes Detroit’s homeless population. It relies on donations and volunteers. This is the first in a series featuring homeless people in Detroit.

By Mark Jacobs

Willie Foster is gazing at the traffic on Jefferson Avenue in Detroit.

The streets of Detroit have been his home for four months now, and he spends his days staring at his surroundings, struggling to survive and trying to piece together how he got to this point.

Willie Foster

Willie Foster

Just yesterday, it sometimes seems to him, he had a loving family and home in North Carolina. But that was a very long time ago, before Vietnam changed him forever.

When Willie returned home to North Carolina from two tours of duty in Vietnam, 22 months altogether, he no longer resembled the young man who had left.

Grief-stricken, confused and angry, he eventually made the biggest mistake of his life.

One night he and his buddies committed an armed robbery and before he knew it, he was sentenced to 30 years in prison, and he served every minute of it.

He’s free now, released just four months ago, but must somehow figure out how to get by in an unrecognizable world. It’s not clear exactly how he landed in Detroit.

The anger is gone as is the tough guy, but, at age 64, he’s broken, sad, alone, frightened and homeless, one of about 20,000 in the Motor City.

Willie loves trucks. He once drove a big rig, as did his father and grandfather. It was what the Fosters did in North Carolina, and Willie carried that mantle, if ever so briefly.

When a big truck rolls past him on Jefferson Avenue, for a quick moment his heart warms and a slight smile passes his lips. It’s the closest he’ll come to a smile all day.

Willie went thirty years without seeing a truck. His meals and clothes were supplied to him, but his spirit died within those walls.

Thirty years, another lifetime ago.

When he was released, he had no clue where to go or whom to seek. His only focus these days is on the basics: food, clothing and shelter.

The furthest he can think ahead is the knowledge that a Michigan winter is right around the corner, and he fears he’ll freeze to death one night in Hart Plaza, where he currently calls home.

He left Vietnam over 40 years ago but, like so many other veterans, he still can’t shake it.

His mind is consumed with horrific flashbacks, and he still sheds spontaneous tears that he doesn’t understand.

He never got the help he needed to deal with those flashbacks, and these days, a time when he must especially rely on his survival skills, the ghosts of Vietnam haunt his soul and paralyze his body.

He didn’t die in those jungles, his name is not listed among the dead on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C., but Willie’s a living victim, nonetheless.

We walk past Willie and, if we notice him at all, we see an elderly homeless man, clearly weathered by a hard life. To most, Willie’s just another homeless guy, barely visible to our busy eyes.

We await Detroit’s rebirth, and guys like Willie are an inconvenient eyesore to our vision of what that rebirth should look like.

But Willie’s story is inextricably part of America’s story. Boyhood aspirations, family traditions, a faraway war that changed it all, personal struggles, poverty and, finally, consequences.

We don’t see Willie, but he sees us. What must we look like to him as he sits alone, hungry and frightened, watching us scurry about to our lunch dates, meetings and ball games?


Share the Warmth: Annual coat drive underway

Local 4 is teaming up with Tapper’s Jewelry and Morgan Stanly for an annual coat drive.

Heart to Hart Detroit is one of the many organizations that benefit from the generous donations.

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H2HD 2014 Funraiser Event Video

Heart 2 Hart Detroit hosted its annual fundraiser at the Orchard Lake Country Club on August 16, 2014. The event benefited the organization’s mission of providing food, clothing and support to Detroit’s homeless population.

Heart 2 Hart Detroit Annual Fundraiser 2014

From DBusiness / Events and Party Pictures:

Heart 2 Hart Detroit hosted its annual fundraiser at the Orchard Lake Country Club on Aug. 16. The event benefited the organization’s mission of providing food and clothing to Detroit’s homeless population.

View photos by Patrick Gloria

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Support from Quicken Loans

Received a generous donation from Quicken Loans to help support our hunger relief efforts.

Heart to Hart Detroit delivering essentials to those in need

WJBK  |   Jan 24, 2014 4:29 PM EST
Heart to Hart Detroit, as in the human heart to Hart Plaza, is a local nonprofit foundation that delivers essential supplies to the homeless and people in need in Detroit. The foundation sends a car at noon on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays that is full of essential items like socks, hand warmers and food.

“It might be food; it might be compassion; it might be just someone that they can count on and that’s what we do,” says Larry Oleinick. He and his team are trying to service as many people as possible and are now in need of a bigger vehicle to transport the items downtown.

To those like Christina, who is currently living and sleeping on the streets, this help makes a world of difference.

“No matter what happens, as cold as you get, as bad as people are to you on the street, you’ve got somebody that knows you’re here and that’s looking for you on a daily basis. I know I’m going to get fed. I know I’m going to be warm. I know I’m going to get to smile at least once a day,” she tells FOX 2’s Jason Carr.


Students Help H2HD

In honor of Martin Luther King Day, students at University Liggett School in Grosse Pointe Woods, prepared lunches and made up hygiene bags for us to distribute to the men and women on our deliveries.