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Tent city sprouts in resurging Detroit

Charles Floyd Jones picked up trash at a tent community on the eastern edge of downtown Detroit on Wednesday.
Charles Floyd Jones picked up trash at a tent community on the eastern edge of downtown Detroit on Wednesday.Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

DETROIT — Bankruptcy behind it, Detroit offers the sense that better days are ahead. But a tent community has sprouted in the shadow of a resurgent pocket of downtown, where rental occupancy is close to full and restaurants and shops are doing brisk business.

Charles Floyd Jones, one of 10 residents in the makeshift community, can only hope that the city’s improved fortune reaches him.

For now, Jones, 51, says he and the others have nowhere else to go.

The city’s homeless numbers swelled over the past decade as manufacturing and other jobs disappeared and homes were lost during the national foreclosure crisis.


All told, about 16,200 of Detroit’s 680,000 residents — almost 2.4 percent — are believed to be living on the streets or in temporary shelters, and that does not account for other types of homelessness, such as teens staying temporarily with friends and families living in motels.

By comparison, only about 1 percent of San Francisco’s more than 800,000 residents are homeless. But San Francisco is on much firmer financial ground than Detroit, which shed $7 billion in debt during bankruptcy. Its restructuring plan aims to raise revenue and improve city services with $1.7 billion in funding, but it also calls for budget austerity.

‘‘I love Detroit. I’d hope things would get better,’’ said 29-year-old Josh Reslow, an unemployed carpenter who shares a tent in the encampment with his girlfriend, Brittney Hines, 25.

Lewis Hickson, operations manager of the Neighborhood Service Organization’s Tumaini Center, said his group has dropped off coats at the tent city that can be used as sleeping bags.

‘‘You try to encourage them to come in out of the cold,’’ Hickson said. ‘‘They really don’t like shelter life because of the rules.’’

Associated Press