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Under the direction of the CSO, Victoria Kovari, The Serve Detroit citywide service plan has been designed to stabilize Detroit’s population by bringing together three key initiatives:
- Keeping people in their homes by reducing the
number of tax foreclosed properties
- Improving the Financial Stability of low-income
- Mitigating blight in our neighborhoods
Aligned closely with Mayor Duggan’s goal to increase Detroit’s population, this plan will leverage the resources of local government, resident volunteers, corporate and faith-based volunteers, to create a strategy that can successfully tackle some of the City’s most pressing problems. The very process of developing the Serve Detroit Plan has helped crystallize the city’s thinking around volunteerism and spawned ideas about what more can be done with greater use of volunteers. With support from Cities of Service, the process of creating the service plan has been more than positive, it has been transformative. Out of the plan came an entirely new volunteer webpage, a video of the Mayor promoting the importance of volunteerism and the emergence of a new spirit of volunteerism among city workers, as evidenced by Earned Income Tax Credit campaign. Nearly double the number of City employees signed up to be volunteer tax preparers over what had been projected.
The Chief Service Officer, working through the Department of Neighborhoods (DON) will have
primary responsibility for implementing the three impact volunteering initiatives. The methodology for identifying the three initiatives relied heavily on the DON, and on the newly created Partners in Service Advisory group, consisting primarily of the volunteer directors of the City’s major corporations and the United Way. Research and other technical assistance from Bloomberg Associates working in Detroit, was also a key piece behind the methodology of the Serve Detroit plan.
At the heart of the City of Detroit’s overall service strategy is the problem of financial instability of Detroit residents and specifically, the crisis of tax foreclosed properties. To tackle these far reaching and complicated issues, the first initiative, “We Want You to Stay”, will focus on mobilizing volunteers to do mailings, workshops and door to door outreach to families who live in homes at imminent risk of tax foreclosure, to save their homes from the County Tax Auction. The initiative will also include families who live in homes owned by the Detroit Land Bank, to put these families on a path to buying back their homes.
The second initiative will tackle improving the financial stability of low income Detroit households, specifically through a major expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Volunteers will be recruited to prepare taxes at sites across the City, with the goal of getting more residents to file for the EITC. Over $50 million dollars of EITC claims go unfiled every year in the City of Detroit.
The final impact initiative is focused on Mitigating Blight. Tax foreclosures fuel the blight pipeline in Detroit because when occupants of foreclosed property move out, their vacant home becomes a target for vandals and scrappers. The need to secure and clean up these properties has been the object of many large clean-up projects by corporations and other organizations. Mostly volunteers from outside the City participate in these efforts and once they are gone, the improvements are often unsustainable, unless residents in the area are integrated into the effort. This third initiative focuses on aligning and coordinating these efforts with the priorities and services of local government and increasing the participation of residents in planning and organizing the project.
Traditional volunteer mobilizations like Motor City Makeover and Angel’s Night will be integrated into the Serve Detroit Plan as well as the new volunteer webpage that has been created to promote volunteerism and consolidating and centralizing volunteer recruitment across City of Detroit departments.