Reclaiming the neighborhood on Detroit's east side

For years, in a neighborhood on Detroit's east side, people were afraid to leave their homes during the day. Then a family from the suburbs moved in - and it all started to change.

The homes on Eastburn Street in Detroit were falling victim to drugs as crime fluorished in the Regent Park neighborhood between Kelly Road and Vernier.

When Juanita Williams and her family moved in, they lived in fear.

"The first two years I was so afraid to sit on my porch, we had break-ins. They would try to come in on my family in broad daylight while we were sleeping," Williams said.

Then Larry and Marilyn Johnson moved in and started to put their money to work. 

The Johnsons both had a successful career working with computers and they had the resources to invest. That was in 2005.

"Rather than sit around as a Monday morning quarterback and criticize others, we said we've been blessed with resources and the Lord has laid on us a passion to do something with those resources - let's take a Detroit neighborhood and see if we can bring hope and light there so here we are," Larry said.

Today, 14 years later, they've rehabbed over 50 homes and put them up for rent. Sweeping through Regent Park, their non-profit - Life Builders - has changed the neighborhood by fixing up homes, parks and building something just for the kids. 
"We built a $1.2 million early child education center, we did a pocket park right around the corner, we have received grants from both the city and the county for funding of more than $1 million in housing and we have also secured a lot of private investment," Larry said.

Marilyn said this isn't charity work - it's much more than that.

"This is absolutely something else," marilyn said. "We are not a hand out but a hand up and that's what helping people build and rebuild their lives is all about. We all need that help, I need that. I need people telling me that.  

There's no racial divide or 8 Mile divide in Regent Park. This is a true community.

"We got to know one another and have community with one another. We're building a community together and all of a sudden all those barriers, all those prejudices that people carry around from one generation to another - love overcame that whole thing," Larry said.

For information about Life Builders, check out their site here.