Achille Bianchi

Cass Corridor treatment clinic helping clients, and the streets, get clean

DETROIT—Through gardening, street cleanups and art programs, a non-profit in Cass Corridor is saving fathers in Detroit, one street at a time.

Having been around for 83 years, Mariner’s Inn is a rehabilitation center that treats its all-male clientele with unique treatment programs. Through partnerships with various organizations, the Inn uses familiar place-building concepts to not only help their clients recover, but the streets that surround them as well.

Gardening and work opportunities

While some of their clientele have traveled across Michigan to come clean at the Inn, some are reluctant to enter the various programs. After the initial steps, however, they become genuinely interested in what the programs, and the Inn, have to offer.

“At first it was hard to get anyone involved, because there was nothing in the backyard – nobody could really see what it was we were trying to do,” says Kori Lowe, a residential program director at the Inn, of their one-year-old gardening program. “Once they started to see the garden grow, they really got excited and involved.”

Lowe says that’s important because it gives their clients something to think about other than their addictions, which their lives revolve around, even during recovery.

“I think the most positive impact is that it gives them something healthy and productive to do that has nothing to do with being an addict,” Lowe says.

Carina Yanish, who’s been with the Inn for five years and acts as the chief operating officer, agrees. She says a lot of the men who come to Mariner’s haven’t had three square meals a day in years, or in some cases, never.

The Inn also has a streets cleanup program it offers to its clientele. They mow lawns, pickup trash, and this year have adopted nearby Cass Park, a once derelict greenspace, which they now maintain weekly.

“I’ve talked to them about why community gardens are so prevalent here, and why it’s important to grow their own food,” Yanish says. “It’s also a statement about the state of Detroit – about not having access to affordable, healthy food. I think they connect in two ways, not only with the nutrition aspect, but also the political statement that having a garden makes.”

“I grew up on a farm, it’s helped a lot – it’s my therapy,” says Michael Darling, 47, a client at the Inn. “I go out there first thing in the morning, meditate and pull weeds. Seeing it now compared to what it was, it was just a dream and then it was there. That’s why it’s named Growing Dreams. It’s therapeutic – now we just need more space. “

Lowe acknowledges the hard work it takes to start a garden, but with some help from the Greening of Detroit, they got theirs started, complete with soil testing and all.

And next year, they will have more space. The success of the initial program and the response the Inn has gotten from their clients, they now intend on doubling the amount of beds and adopting a whole new lot next year.

Lowe says their goal is to have a fully functional farm where the guys can sell produce within the community as well as act as a community center where people can come learn how to start their own garden. She says they’re currently looking into funding opportunities.

Cleaning up the streets of Cass Corridor

The Inn also has a streets cleanup program it offers to its clientele. They mow lawns, pickup trash, and this year have adopted nearby Cass Park, a once derelict greenspace, which they now maintain weekly.

“The first time we cut the grass [at Cass Park], it took us three days because it was so high,” Yanish says. “We’ve filled out the paperwork with the city and whether or not we hear from them, we’re going to go ahead and keep it clean because our guys relax in that park, they walk across that park – its still part of their environment. … This is a representation of them.”

Yanish says a lot of the streets are cleaner around the Inn because about 99 percent of their clients help pick up garbage on a daily basis.

“Cass Corridor has a reputation of being a place you come and get high. These guys are the reason it has that reputation,” Yanish says. “We talked about changing the environment by what you do … If we don’t take pride in where we live, that all ties into how you feel about yourself.”

According to Yanish, one street she was trying to keep the guys away from is Peterboro, which is located in the heart of the Corridor, for fear one of her clients might relapse due to the street’s notorious reputation as a place to buy drugs.

7557481054_2a8ee92ab6But, she says, she found her all of her guys there one day, cleaning up the street and passing out Mariner’s pamphlets, spreading the idea that everyone has the chance to change their lives.

“They had the people on Peterboro cleaning up,” she says. “It was the craziest thing ever.”

Through gardening, cleanup and art programs, Mariner’s Inn lets their guys take the time they need to curb whatever habits they check in with and gives them training and a place to stay until they’re ready to re-enter the workforce.

“We try to give each client multiple options to explore interests, through art, music and gardening,” Lowe says. “No matter what their interest is, there is something here that they can get involved in that’s about them being more than an addict.

Tucked away behind a non-descript wooden fence on Cass Ave at Ledyard St., Mariner’s Inn’s urban gardens aren’t necessarily noticeable. Nor are the cleaner streets, which passerbys likely overlook as they have for decades. For the men who are tending to them, however, those gardens and cleaner streets are in their clear line of site and represent everything that have to look forward to in the future.

“It’s kind of a metaphor for us: We throwing away the garbage and making ourselves better, and in turn, we’re picking up the trash and cleaning up around here,” Darling says.

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