MEMPHIS, Tenn. — You may have seen them around town wearing bright green T-shirts, cleaning up blight.
They call themselves the Blight Patrol.
It’s a group of ex-offenders learning how to be productive citizens by cutting overgrown grass for the City of Memphis. Problem is, the program is out of money.
“We accept responsibility for our bad decisions, but now we are in the process of making better decisions,” said Executive Director Deandre Brown to his classroom of Blight Patrol trainees.
Brown’s students might not be trying to conquer the world. Mostly, they are just trying to stay out of prison.
“James Brown, why are you here?” Brown asked a trainee.
“The real reason I am here is to stay off the streets,” said the ex-offender.
From drug dealers to violent offenders, all are welcome.
“If you have a felony, you qualify,” said Brown.
For the last five years, Brown has taken career criminals and turned them into productive citizens.
“After they have completed four weeks of training, they are able to join the Blight Patrol.”
The City of Memphis pays Lifeline to Success and its Blight Patrol team to cut overgrown grass.
The problem is that the city hasn’t given them real work since December.
“During the winter months, when grass stops growing, there is really no need for people to cut grass.”
No money is coming in, so nobody’s getting paid. Yet the training class continues five days a week, teaching felons how to redefine their lives.
“I was robbing and doing a whole lot of messed up things,” said a felon in the class.
“When we are laid off, it’s a little difficult to keep the lights on,” said Brown.
What the men and women learn inside the classroom, Brown says, does not just lead to a minimum wage wage job but also builds character and strength for a better future.
“Just being here every day has changed my attitude about being out there period,” said an offender about the street life.
“Our program focuses on those that no one else wants to focus on,” said Brown. “We want the ones what people say they can’t be helped, the people given up on, because we know that transformation is possible.”
Before felons can clean up blight, Brown says they need tools, not just for yard work, but for life.
If you would like to help Lifeline to Success continue its work to help ex-offenders and reduce crime in our city, here are the links to donate: