Loretta’s turf

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A poor excuse for a house, 15715 Virgil, was finally demolished on April 30. ASS first visited this one-story hulk in January 2002 in an attempt to help residents like Ron Coffey, who lived next door with his five children.

Fortunately for Coffey, one of his neighbors, longtime neighborhood activist Loretta Hudson, 64, made it her business to get the house demolished.

Many in the community consider Hudson, a Brightmoor resident for 23 years, to be a heroine. She’s spent a decade fighting neighborhood blight.

Metro Times met her in 1999, when she sent video footage to then-Mayor Dennis Archer showing how Brightmoor was affected by the bankruptcy of Rogers Investment and Management Company (RIMCO), which managed 500 rental properties the area.

Hudson, who leads a loosely organized watch group called South Brammel Street and Friends, says abandoned houses will be occupied, but not legally and not by the ideal neighbors.

“A lot of them are drug houses,” she says. “One or two on the block will drive a family out. You get really depressed. We have a joke [that] we’re selling our houses for 50 cents.”

Instead of selling her home, Hudson decided to fight, and her actions added oomph! to Coffey’s repeated complaints to the city about 15715 Virgil.

Here’s how it went down. The city had heard Coffey’s cry, and had placed the home — vacant since 1999 — on the demolition list. But the owner began to appear periodically and board the house’s windows and entrances. The city cannot demolish boarded homes, because it is a sign that someone intends to save them. Consequently, the house was removed from the list.

Hudson, however, noticed that the boards would be removed periodically, and prostitutes and drug addicts would frequent the house.

Call Hudson’s maneuvers whatever you want: swift … deft … nimble. She watched the house, and photographed it while the boards were gone.

“We went to the [City] Council last year on the Virgil house,” she says. “We showed [the pictures], and they put it back on the list.”

One of the most dramatic symbols of change Brightmoor residents hope for, a spray-painted yellow “D” — for “Demolish” — appeared on the facade of the house. Two days after ASS made a return visit, it came down.

We can imagine Hudson standing in a flower-dappled vacant lot somewhere, sunset behind her, her cape whipping in the wind, the community serene.

Khari Kimani Turner is a Metro Times staff writer. E-mail him at [email protected]
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