Detroit Green Acres community plagued with homeless problem

Residents of a thriving Detroit neighborhood are urging the city to deal with the homeless population. Leaders say they're doing what they can to help, but the problem is too complex for a quick fix.

"I want a better life," said Andrew Thibodeau. "I want to sleep in a real bed, I want to go back to college, I don't want to just use drugs every day and wake up and hold a sign and beg for food. There's something that goes against your dignity to do that."

Thibodeau has been homeless for years and wants to get off Eight Mile and Woodward. For nearby, homeowners that cannot happen soon enough.

"We care about them," said Elaine Nixon. "Because you don't know, some day it could be your brother, sister, relative or best friend. You don't know what takes people to these places, but at the same token we have to try to maintain and keep our community and our streets together for our children and our grandchildren."

It can be a tough act, balancing compassion and comfort. It is a truth people like Elaine Nixon living in the Green Acres neighborhood in northwest Detroit know all too well.

They've long had their concerns about the homeless population at Eight Mile and Woodward. The intersection borders a thriving shopping center to the east and Green Acres to the west. 

"We're just concerned as far as how it looks," said Maria Dickerson. "How it smells, the garbage and that's where most of our issues are."

Maria Dickerson heads up the neighborhood association and says while many of the homeless there are decent people who have fallen on hard times, a few are aggressive and t least one seems to be unstable.

"One of the homeless people is very violent, so the residents are very afraid of him," she said. "But that's a mental health issue because he screams and hollers at people. But then where are the mental health places for him to go?" hanks to the decisions made in Lansing years ago, not many. 

Residents have urged the city of Detroit to take action and it has - from police driving people to homeless shelters to the Department of Public Works cleaning up and removing people's belongings, but nothing has really worked. 

FOX 2: "What is it that makes this spot at Eight Mile and Woodward so desirable?"

"Well if you fly a sign it can be pretty lucrative if you stay at it, you have to stay out here many hours," Thibodeau said.

Green Acres is one of Detroit's stronger neighborhoods. It is surrounded by a cluster of thriving communities like Palmer Woods, Sherwood Forest and the University District.  Areas that, since the recession, have seen a steady rise in property values as well as a mounting concerns about their unwanted neighbors.

"We've been trying to help to come to a solution," Dickerson said. "But it just seems that it's fell on deaf ears."

But Kim Tandy, the City of Detroit's district manager for the area, says they're actively working with both the state and neighboring city of Ferndale to come up with a more permanent solution but that is no easy task when you're dealing with complicated issues like homelessness and mental health.