New lease on life at new east-side, affordable townhomes

September 24th, 2017
Keith Clarke with his two daughters at their new Mack Ashland II townhome.

Keith Clarke had spent his whole life in Detroit, but he left four years ago to start anew after too many “hard lessons” that he associated with the city.

Two years later, however, he received a call that would summon him back from St. Louis. The mother of his two little girls no longer wanted them. They were four and six years old at the time.

“I needed to save my kids,” Keith says. “I felt they would starve and be in danger unless they were in my care.”

Gaining custody was complicated by several factors, but Keith prevailed in court. He found a suitable rental home on the east side. But when the owner of the home decided to sell it, Keith needed to find another affordable and quality place to stay. If he couldn’t, he decided, he would return to St. Louis with the girls.

Mack Ashland II townhome where Keith and his daughters live.

Then Keith saw the townhomes being constructed in the area near Mack Avenue between Chalmers and Alter. The townhome development of 28 affordable units for rent is a partnership between Southwest Solutions and Northeast Guidance Center (NEGC). The development is called Mack-Ashland II. Mack-Ashland I is a 39-unit supportive housing apartment complex. It was completed in 2013 through the same partnership.

Keith and his girls had been receiving family counseling at NEGC to help the girls work through issues related to their mother abandoning them. NEGC recommended that Keith fill out a townhome application with Southwest Solutions. Keith and his daughters moved in at the beginning of June.

Keith has a housing voucher and collects disability because of serious and hereditary heart problem that resulted in a pacemaker being installed in 2009. Because of his limited income, Keith was unsure about how he was going to furnish his new place in the way he wanted so his girls would truly feel at home. Keith’s concern was alleviated when Humble Design arranged to furnish and decorate their townhome at no cost to him. He and his girls reacted with delight and gratitude when they saw the new things throughout the home, as this video shows.

“I am a neat freak and I wanted pretty things around us,” Keith says. “To be in a new place that’s so well built and then to get new and nice furnishings has made a big difference for our family. It’s a new start and we feel very hopeful.”

Keith and his daughters at the Mack Ashland II community playground.

Keith’s daughters, Alexis and Aniyah, are in first and third grade, respectively, at Merritt Academy, which is about a mile from their townhome. Aniyah says her favorite subject is math and that she wants to become an engineer.

The girls enjoy playing at a community playground that borders their backyard. The playground was built by volunteers, and Keith himself contributed to the effort.

Now that his life is more settled, Keith wants to pursue an Associate’s degree at Wayne County Community College so he can become an X-Ray technician and better support his family. Keith obtained his GED when he was in prison in his late 30s. He is now 50 years old.

“I am a changed person because of the hard lessons I’ve learned,” Keith says. “I’m living through my girls now. Every decision that I make is for their benefit and their future.”

The townhomes are all leased up, but we are keeping a waiting list. To join the waiting list, please fill out an application at the Southwest Housing Solutions office at 1920 25th Street, Detroit, MI 48216.

The Mack Ashland II development is funded by:

  • Michigan State Housing Development Authority
  • Bank of America Foundation
  • Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan
  • Community Housing Capital
  • Enterprise Community Partners
  • Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta
  • The Home Depot Foundation
  • JPMorgan Chase Bank
  • KaBOOM! & Dr Pepper Snapple Group
  • National Development Council
  • NeighborWorks America

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