Detroit is a very large city. 149.2 square miles to be exact. That’s large enough to fit all of San Francisco, Boston, and Manhattan within its borders. As a result, it can be hard to become familiar with all of the different parts of Detroit. However, during my time at Freedom House I have been able to do some exploring through driving. With so many residents in the house, appointments can pile up and staff can have a hard time getting everyone where they need to go. There have been days where coordinating the driving schedule closely resembles traffic control at an airport. The places residents need to go are also scattered throughout Detroit and the surrounding area.
When I am driving residents, I like to practice my knowledge and point out landmarks I recognize and their history. Some residents might ask me questions about the area. For example, one resident asked me about abandoned houses and why there were so many empty lots. Of course this is too complicated to explain in one car ride, but it is fun to get a conversation started about Detroit and its history. Sometimes, I drive residents to the surrounding suburbs and they talk about the differences between the neighborhoods there and the neighborhoods they see around Freedom House.
I think what I enjoy most about driving the residents, is getting to know them better. The house is often hectic and sometimes we can get focused on getting forms signed and other administrative tasks. When I am in the car, I get to just talk with the resident. We talk about prom, how many siblings I have, and other light-hearted topics. I also have funny moments with residents like when one of the children claimed they saw a shark in the river and I had to explain to him and his alarmed mother that there are in fact no sharks in the Detroit River. Sometimes you have to take a step back and appreciate these moments.