Sherman Park, a year later: Inmates on work release rehabbing homes purchased for $1 by 6 developers

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Sherman Park

MILWAUKEE -- August 13th marks the one-year anniversary of the Sherman Park unrest. Riots left multiple buildings destroyed and the neighborhood scarred, but progress has been made a year later.

Up to 100 new homeowners could soon be moving into the area, thanks to a new program aimed at flipping boarded-up houses -- and the program is putting people back to work and changing the neighborhood for the better.

"We just got here today," Joel Brzenk said near 46th and Chambers on Wednesday, August 9th.

Brzenk was working on a home in need of repair.

Sherman Park

"This is what we were doing today -- just picking up all the garbage in here," Brzenk said.

Brzenk is serving time in the House of Correction for a robbery. He's on work release, which is allowing him to be a part of this program aimed at revitalizing Sherman Park and turning lives like his around.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett led a tour Wednesday.

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

After last summer's unrest, with help from the state, the City of Milwaukee is rehabbing 100 homes and demolishing 100 more. Six developers were chosen to take the unwanted homes for $1 each and flip them. In return, they agreed to hire under-employed or hard-to-employ workers.

"Was struggling. Could barely make ends meet," Junior Bishop said.

Junior Bishop

On Wednesday, Bishop showed off the first project completed.

This program hasn't been without controversy, however, Unhappy residents who thought homes were available for $1 aired their frustration during the winter when they learned only developers were eligible to purchase them.

"If they could prove they could buy the house, and do the repairs, they should have had that chance," Senator Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee said.

Sherman Park

Sherman Park

Senator Taylor said while the program is changing lives, she wonders whether more could've been helped with the money.

"It's not that the ideas are not good ones. It's just -- could we have maximized our dollars?" Taylor said.

Senator Lena Taylor

Taylor said the program is doing good things for the neighborhood, but she said the challenges that sparked the riots last August had nothing to do with people needing new homes. She said she hopes politicians continue to work on the root causes, like police-community relations.

"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," Mayor Barrett said.

Developers have 16 months to complete their projects.

Sherman Park

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