"I feel bad," says Jamie War-field, senior crew leader of the Motor City Blight Busters Detroit Inc., standing in a collapsing house in northwest Detroit. "There was a family living here once upon a time."
Inside the living room, a heterogeneous mixture: smiling baby dolls under piles of rubble, grit and glass, singed teddy bears, a warped loveseat and other cherished trinkets-the residuals of a once-welcoming residence left desecrated. But even the direst of abandoned abodes can't completely erase the leftover comforts of home.
"It was a loving environment," Warfield says, scanning the room for other signs. (Previously, he's found everything from guns and drugs to rooms of dead cats.) "It wasn't always blighted."
Since 1988, Motor City Blight Busters has tirelessly worked to rebuild blighted communities from the inside out. Funded by grants and volunteer work, these "blight busters" have disassembled, restored and renovated more than 300 homes to build farmlands, gardens, community centers and low-income housing.
"If you focus, you can get (a house) down in a week by hand," says Warfield, who came to Detroit eight years ago from Indianapolis to join Blight Busters. It was the ability to influence change that attracted him.
"The attitude and initiative to want to get things done," he explains. "And once you create a ripple effect, it spreads."
Save for a drill through the hand, a few broken fingers-"the worse was when a (housing) wall fell on my back"-Warfield has not been seriously injured on the job. But, he says, there is more to blight than simply beautification.
"Blight is anything negative. Blight is child abuse. Woman abuse, people abuse. As long as it's not positive, then it's blight."