Hundreds line up downtown on 4th of July, lured in by 'free homes' event

There were flyers. There was a Facebook event. There's even a sleek, legitimate-looking website. But the hundreds and hundreds of Detroiters that lined up downtown on the 4th of July weren't prepared for the truth -- that the advertised "free homes fair" was a sham. 

Each person we talked to waiting in line shared a different story and a different struggle, but all felt the same heartbreak when they learned the truth.

"You gotta be kidding me. I've been waiting for this day and I went through so much to get here and I've been all morning," said Maria Williams. Maria is homeless with young children and thought this "free homes fair" was her shot at a new beginning, a new life.

Maria is one of more than a thousand people that came here under the guise that if they voted to get rid of the current city council and its policies, the hundreds of thousands of abandoned homes in Detroit would be given to them. For free. 

FOX 2 talked with some of the event organizers at the gathering. They say this is still a legitimate deal. The description on the Facebook event says, after parting ways with the current City Council, the "new" council will give away the homes for free to those who came to the fair. 

But, obviously, the police and the City say something else -- as do the hundreds of disappointed Detroiters.  

"Now they're saying there ain't no houses and we're here for nothing (sic). That makes me wanna do something, you know? I'm real mad but I'm going to just let it go. Leave it in god's hands," said Rhonda Jones. 

The City got wind of the what was going on and put a warning on their website and tweeted late Tuesday night, telling people this is not a legitimate city event and to refrain from giving personal information to any unverified sources.

Detroit police officers came out, too, to keep the peace and tell everyone that this is simply too good to be true. 

"It's happened the last two summers in Highland Park. Last year we had 12 people show up. So, we were aware of it and had resources available but did not expect the turnout that we saw this morning," said Detroit Police Capt. Kurt Worboys. 

Police did say the group applied for a gathering permit, but were denied. They will likely be ticketed. 

"This event was denied permitting by the Office of special events and DPD. Residents were notified that the event was not sanctioned and advised not attend through city social media platforms. Additionally, DPD was dispatched and on site to ensure the event did not take place and will discuss with media the measure they are going to take," the City said in an official statement. 

Police told us authorities will also be investigating if anything criminal took place or if any laws were broken. 

Meanwhile, we talked to the first person in line. She came over at 2 a.m., and the event didn't begin until 9 a.m. This just proves how important this event was to some people -- and how great the need is for more affordable housing in Detroit.