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Although there has been some progress made over the last few years, the threat of Detroit residents losing their homes to tax foreclosures is still a real thing.

For a variety of reasons, 1,800 occupied homes are on the block for the October 13 auction. Some are very poor, others have been paying rent to shady landlords who haven’t been paying the taxes on the properties while collecting rent. Some of the properties, according to The Tricycle Collective, are over-assessed and so have inflated tax rates.

This contributes to the extremely high level of abandonment in the city. One in six occupied homes becomes vacant within a year of tax foreclosure and a third of the properties in the city of Detroit has been auctioned through tax foreclosure since 2002.

But there’s some good news. Through the online crowdfunding platform Patronicity, The Tricycle Collective has raised $30,176 to help keep foreclosures at bay.

Michele Oberholtzer working with children. Courtesy Photo.

“In the three years that the Tricycle Collective has supported families through the auction, we have seen a tipping in the odds against residents and into the favor of investors,” said Michele Oberholtzer, founder of the Tricycle Collective. “It used to be that information was the biggest gap between a person and their deed but now, more and more, it comes down to money. We are doing what we can.”

And often, it’s not about a lot of money in the big scheme of things. Here’s how it works.

Each family in the Tricycle Collective program receives a $500 donation to help them buy their home in the auction. These donations are handled by their partner organization, the United Community Housing Coalition (UCHC).

But it’s not just about $500 and being done, or a handout. It’s a hand up.

This works in concert with UCHC’s Tax Foreclosure Prevention Project that provides free counseling and assistance to residents of tax foreclosed homes throughout the year. They also help Detroiters retain their homes if and when they do go up for auction.

The donations from The Tricycle Collective, as well as a zero-interest loan pool, help support residents and saved money from the residents themselves — as I said, a good number who have been paying rent up until the time of the auction — are scratched together to hopefully have enough money to win their house in auction.

And yes, there have been instances of just $500 winning the house for the family.

The Tricycle Collective and the UCHC aren’t new things, and although they don’t completely solve the problem, it helps blunt the impact in a meaningful way for Detroit families.

Over the past three years, the Tricycle Collective has contributed over $54,000 in direct donations to 106 families.

After all, when it comes to the financial flood that is the foreclosure crisis in Detroit, every lifeboat helps.