tv America Tonight Al Jazeera September 5, 2015 12:30am-1:01am EDT
>> you can always go to our website, 1. aljazeera.com. >> i'm working, surviving without being to be street. >> deconstructing. >> we're giving individuals reasons not to commit this act. >> since april 22nd, took the opportunity to show the bad side. but the young people that i'm seeing they want a chance to turn that around.
>> baltimore is my adopted home. i moved here more than a decade ago, i quickly fell in love with its neighborhoods and its rich history. i'm adam may. as a reporter that covered the death of freddy gray, the rioting that broke out afterwards and the bloodshed and murder it struck me that too many stories are going untold. stories of people trying to solve root problems, problems like poverty, joblessness and drug addiction. tonight we highlight the inspiring stories, the innovative ideas of those who are trying to save baltimore. >> i love it, it was challenging, something i had never done. >> bernadette buxon celebrated
her first anniversary working in deconstruction. tearing down some of baltimore's vast stretches of abandoned row houses. >> just the drill, it is not as easy as some people think. to drill a door is sway ask a some ways a door, to take out a drill, it looks easy but it's not. a lot of other tools now. >> the 52-year-old woman from east baltimore didn't plan on working in deconstruction. she was a teacher's smint until thteacher's assistantuntil the s evils to make quick cash ruined her life. >> how did you become unemployable? >> i had worked in the school system and had left to take care of somebody and i got into selling drugs again and didn't go back to work and then i started using. >> what kind of
drugs? >> heroin? >> heroin. >> yes. what did heroin do to your life? >> tore my life apart. family wise everything. i lost custody of my kids. >> how old were your kids when you lost custody of them? >> seven and eight. six and five. >> at rock bottom, she decided to go clean. but like tens of thousands of other ex-felons in baltimore she found herself hampered with a criminal record. it took her years to land this job. part of a social program called details, sponsored by humana. >> you waited a decade for this job. >> i had to fill out so many applications, because of my background. >> nobody would hire you.
>> no. >> how does that feel in your heart when you can't support yourself? >> i was little bit broken. because i didn't want to go back to the streets. to make money that way. >> buxon leaves her house early to make it to work by 7:30, walking through streets ravaged by drugs and joblessness. lined with abandoned homes, some of the 16,000 empty properties in baltimore. >> deconstruction is the means but the end is to create jobs, that's what we're after. >> until last year max pollack worked in a cubicle. seeing a city in need of radical urban renewal. nearly a quarter of baltimore's population lives below the port poverty align.
unemployment in this area is running 30%. >> if you have these dual issues of high unemployment and drug abuse. >> you see block after block of vacant homes. how is this solving that issue? >> the vacant houses that you see in baltimore are less you know they're less a -- the problem itself and there may be more of a symptom of problems that have existed in baltimore for the past 50 years. >> they're what we see. >> yeah, right. >> what do they symbolize? >> they symbolize the loss of industry. they symbolize the loss of jobs. you know institutional neglect. disinvestment. >> generational poverty? >> poverty that is embedded within certain neighborhoods. >> removing empty homes just part of the mission. so is rebuilding broken lives.
like bernadette buxon, 70% of detail's staffers have a conviction on their record. what does the city get out of you guys hiring felons? >> the city gets a number of things. one, it creates way more jobs. these are people that otherwise may not be working and we pay them a living wage with benefits. with the city awarding us the contract it's putting the jobs back in the community. >> johnny washington said he spent years looking for work, held back by two stints in prison racked up by years of dealing drugs. >> what happened when you applied? >> my background, my felonies on my record. >> did they call you back, do you not hear anything? >> i don't hear anything at all. they call me back and they tell me my background didn't go through. >> how do you think that's impacting their record, the fact
that they don't find jobs, how does that affect folks? >> they go back out on the streets and do what they have to do to feed their family. >> johnny has worked his way up to crew leader. he recently completed work on this site, tearing down ten row houses on bradford street just a few blocks from where he said he used to sell heroin. >> do these house he you tear down look like these? >> yes, two story row houses. >> what kind of stuff do you find in these houses? >> jut about everything, drugs, needles, you have to be careful when you go in the basements of houses. >> esthetics aren't the only reason to tear down baltimore's urban rot.
it provides a haven for the epidemic washington used to be a part of. >> do you get pate? >> more than i would have without a job. >> not as much as drug dealing. >> no, but cashing your paycheck, getting a pay stub feels good to me. >> our first project we hired we created 24 to 26 jobs i think. so that's people bringing home a paycheck every day. people going to the corner store to spend money on lunch there. you can think of it as a microinvestment strategy in certain neighborhoods. >> what kind of work have you done in here then already? >> in this one we've basically gutted the building leaving a shell essentially. >> deconstruction. the pains take salvaging of wood and bricks is more expensive than simply bulldozing the homes. so to help pay for program, details came up with another innovative solution. reselling the materials. they're biggest
money-maker: old bricks. >> most people would see a nondescript wall in an alley in baltimore. for enough of these bricks, if you have enough of them that's an hour of work we can pay somebody. >> from what i used to be, what i used to do, look at me now, i'm surviving. selling drugs, hanging on corners, getting high. i don't -- i'm at -- when i say look at me, it's a different look, that people look at me now. they see somebody that's achieved something. >> do you see people looking add you different now? >> yes, i get a lot of compliments. that i didn't get before. strangers, you know, especially being a woman. walking down the street with a hard hat on. you go girl, you go girl, you know? that put a smile on my face. it really does. >> do you think you're helping save baltimore?
>> i did, in my heart i really do. i'm glad to be a part of something that is growing. and i want to keep the door open for the next person behind me. >> once part of the problems with baltimore, buxon is now repairing it. one brick at a time. details is now expanding. but with 16,000 abandoned buildings across this city, there is a long way to go. whether we come back: one doctor trying to cure baltimore's many ailments, finding unique allies, and later: why was a glass building right in the middle of april's riots left virtually untouched? >> drilling in the arctic. >> rapid change is always an alarming thing to see. >> as the ice caps recede...
and the ocean opens up... how can we protect our natural resources? >> this is what innovation looks like. >> scientists reveal cutting-edge technologies... >> you can look beyond the horizon and extend your reach. >> that could avert disaster while helping save the planet. >> i feel like i have a front row seat for some very dramatic changes.
>> welcome back. for one woman, savings baltimore is actually part of her job description. she's the city's new health commissioner, dr. lena wenn. a rhodes scholar and a harvard fellow, bringing fresh ideas to the city's stubborn problems. at a late summer cookout dr. lena wenn gathers with some baltimore city workers. they're on a mission to stop an onslaught of murders. >> you're putting yourself on the line every day. >> since becoming the city's health commissioner in january dr. wenn has faced two cries crises, crises,an epidemic of heroin use. drugs and violence. >> i grew up in some pretty rougher neighborhoods in los
angeles, in east. we experienced gun violence nearly every day. growing up i felt unsafe walking onto our streets. my family suffered from drug diction, fro addiction, from homelessness, i saw every day the same problems i think our community faces here in baltimore. >> the big story that always makes headlines out of baltimore especially the last few months has been violence. how does this homicide rate connect with the problems facing this city from the health department perspective? >> we see violence as a public health issue. which means that there is a way to prevent it. there is a way to intervene. there's a way to treat it. and there's a way to -- for us to not just see a person as the perpetrator, this is a good guy and a bad guy, but rather we're all victims of trauma. how can we address that trauma together. >> one way dr. wenn's office is
trying to address that problem the the safe streets program, trying to convince baltimore's youth not to let their conflicts escalate into gun violence. >> i know what you come from you know what i come from. >> greg washburn runs the program in the neighborhood of mondamen, close to freddy gray's death in april. >> we're getting individuals together, giving them reasons not to take a life. when one takes a loif you're taking your liflife you're taking your life also. >> i've shot i've been shot, broken houses. >> you know motto. >> safe streets is a small program. limited to only four locations. and some 20 outreach workers in this city of 620,000.
a baltimore that has seen more than 200 murders so far this year. a number higher than new york city which has 13 times the population. according to marshburn, this small program is having a big impact in some of baltimore's roughest neighborhoods. >> how effective has the program been? we keep hearing about the record homicides here the next couple of months. >> in july when they broke the 40 year record, state street had one. >> you only had one murder in the area you guys work in during baltimore's worst month in 40 years? >> one murder. >> why don't you expand this across the city? >> that's my question. >> there are so many issues that didn't just start overnight. drug addiction, mental health and mass incarceration, these are not new issues. they're public policy failures.
>> the root of many the city's problems is drug addiction. bloash has beebaltimore has beee heroin addiction capital of the country. >> there are 20,000 people who are addicted to heroin. >> how is it affecting the city? >> there is not one issue that is not affecting. the children don't see the purpose to go to school. why should they wake up in the morning because nobody in their family wakes up because they're addicted to heroin. heroin is not a singular disease, it affects the entire system. it's very much engrained in the whole city. >> dr. wenn's efforts aren't just focused on prevention but also rapid response. >> there is one overriding reason for us to be here which is to save lives. >> she has put in place another health initiative. an innovative plan to provide
every single resident of baltimore not just addicts with maloxin, a drug that can reverse a heroin overdose. dr. wenn showed me how easy it was to administer, lean back and inhale like a nasal spray. >> we have defibrillators, everyone should have the ability to safe someone's life. we have more people dying from overdose than we do from homicides. >> for dr. lena wenn, saving lives is saying baltimore. perhaps the most challenging city in america to practice public health. >> and when we come back, a return to the scene of last april's unrest, to a safe haven in the midst of chaos.
>> welcome back. it was a terrible day back on april 27th here in baltimore when frustration boiled over after the death of freddy gray, and rioting broke out on streets across this city. but amidst all of the chaos we found some glimmers of hope. a glass building that didn't shatter. filled with children. working. for a better future. terrell simmons has to work through some of the most dangerous streets in america to reach place where he finds safety and security. the
enoch pratt free lois library in east baltimore. >> somebody got shot here the other day. when it's shooting i stay in here. i feel safer in here than out there. >> the library sits at the corner of pennsylvania and white avenues. that's when protesters turn to riots after the death of freddy gray killed after police allegedly gave him a rough ride in a van. rioters looted and destroyed dozens of businesses, the images broadcast around the world. ever since, violence as engulfed baltimore. june and july have been the most violent months in decades. the city recorded its 2000 murder in august . >> i'm scared somehow.
i don't even go outside at night. it's not like a shooting will happen, but i just don't trust it. >> that sense of fear eases inside the library . where 11-year-old derrell can play video games. eat a free lunch. and see other worlds open up before him. >> it's like when you read books you learn new things every day. i want to keep my mind ready for the next grade because you know, over the summer kids forget like everything so i like to keep it fresh in my mind. >> he spends almost every single summer day at the library while his father derrel simmons senior sells used movies down the block. >> your kid is down here in this environment.
how do you think that sounds? >> can you keep your child away from bad elements. you can't keep them away completely but you can tell him what not to do and try to instill in him a sense of purpose in life. >> reporter: poverty, joblessness and drug addiction have all weighed heavily on this neighborhood. but one thing we heard again and again, as we reported this story, was that the violence and unrest do not tell the full story of this community. at the heart of which lies the library. >> come on in. >> malaney townsend diggs is the branch manager. >> we see the real side of the library. we see the side that says, this library needs to remain in this neighborhood. this library is servicing young people, adults, people who don't have jobs can come in and get on the computer and apply for jobs. >> i mean, the reality is, you
walk down there and you can buy heroin. >> right. >> the reality is you can go that way and get shot. >> right. >> can you go there, change your future? >> change your future, change your life. >> you were inside that building on the day of the riot. tell me what you saw out here. how would you describe it? >> it was mass chaos to me. it had people who were looting, burning police vehicles. >> what was in your heart as you saw all this? >> i was sad. sad for the young people because i felt like you know, they thought that that was the best way of getting their voice heard at the time. didn't have another way to make it known that they were tired and frustrated. but feeling like there had to be another way. >> on that day malaney townsend diggs locked the doors of the
library and kept the patrons on the inside inside. >> people didn't want to go out. they felt more comfortable being in the library. >> despite its big windows looking over north avenue, the library suffered little damage in april's rioting. >> it was amazing that it remained untouched. we were grateful for that. >> you opened up the day april thday afterthe riots. kids are in here reading books and broken glass is all around the streets. what do you think brought those kids in here? >> i think at the end of the day, they thought this is the place that cairs about them puts cares about them. puts them first. this is not just being at a library, this is a safe haven. >> even though everything was crazy outside, the library was still here and it was still
here. >> jack lynn alston brings her children here two or three times a week. to sprearpt i participate this r reading program. >> when we come in here it's like coming home. no matter how many people you see standing there, the library means something to the people here. >> the national media has seen an image of this neighborhood on months. >> that's right. >> and it's an image of poverty. ists an image of drug use. it's an image of violence. >> yes, all of those things do exist. they don't just exist here. they exist many places. but there's also love here. there's also all of this. my family and families just like ours. and there's a library. this is where we come to see the other side of all of the other things that may be happening. >> for first time this summer,
the library has also offered free lunches to children. >> the library felt a need to join other places that are children. there are children who don't have food at home. >> how are these programs setting your son up for success? >> man, it makes it a little easier for me. he's getting nutritious stuff up there that's healthy for him. i said did you read a book today? he's already done.. >> the people out there, had a chance to loot, to start fires. but the young people i'm seeing they want a chance to turn it around. >> there's a whole other side of baltimore trying to save it. >> it's a movement, to make difference, to make changes. it is a renewal, a way to make what we want to come to reality and i think young people have a place in that.
they deserve a place in that. >> when i get older i plan to help the community like baltimore, get better it spex. >> what do yo self. >> away do you want to go when you grow up? >> i'd like to either be a doctor or help the city, if the city is down i'd like to help it get better. >> achieving this will be a long journey. down a road of danger and temptation. but at least there's one place, the corner library, offering hope. and that's our special report, saving baltimore. i'm adam may. thanks for watching. be sure to join us next time for more "america tonight."
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