Milwaukee works to rehab buildings destroyed in riots


MILWAUKEE (AP) -- A housing rehabilitation program is employing the jobless and sprucing up a Milwaukee neighborhood that was rocked by riots last year after a police officer fatally shot a 23-year-old black man.

The city is working with the state to fix 100 homes and demolish 100 more in Sherman Park, WITI-TV reported. Six developers will buy homes for $1 each and have 16 months to rehab them. The developers are required to hire under-employed or hard-to-employ workers.

"We're going to see homes that are in the process of being rehabilitated, or renovated," said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

Joel Brzenk is one of the workers employed through the program. Brzenk is serving time for a robbery, but is on work release so he can participate in the program.

Some residents were unhappy to learn that only developers were allowed to purchase and rehab the homes.

"If they could prove they could buy the house, and do the repairs, they should have had that chance," state Sen. Lena Taylor, a Milwaukee Democrat, said.

While progress has been made, Barrett said there's still work to be done.

"Has there been progress? Yes. Is there more that needs to be done? Absolutely yes. And I'm mindful of the fact that there are still far too many people who don't have jobs where they can support their families," Barrett said.

While the program is helping the neighborhood, the cause of the August riots still needs to be addressed, Taylor said. The riots began after Sylville Smith was killed by a police officer. Smith ran from a traffic stop while holding a gun. The police officer, a black man named Dominique Heaggan-Brown, was acquitted by a jury in June.

Taylor said she hopes politicians will continue to look at issues such as relations between law enforcement and communities.

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