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Six or seven years ago my family purchased, for pennies on the dollar, a couple of foreclosed-upon rental properties in Silver City, a rough but budding Old Milwaukee neighborhood. When we first walked through the behemoth relics of the 1920s, we stepped over missing floorboards, skirted shattered glass, batted away cobwebs. The mailman told us parts of stories of the dog-fighting arena formerly hidden away in one of the buildings; false walls and reinforced doors told us the rest.
Every free Saturday that I can remember has been spent at the ‘Apartments,’ painting doors and hanging drywall and building flower boxes and picking up garbage and pulling weeds and scrubbing floors. After a busy school week, it can be difficult to motivate myself to wake up early, put my old ripped Wranglers on, and go to work. My now weirdly extensive knowledge of hydronics and intimate familiarity with all of Milwaukee’s South Side’s taco wagons are, to me, worth the six-day work week.
It’s difficult to be very optimistic when faced weekly with old rusted screens and peeling paint, but even after the longest, hottest, dirtiest days doing jobs we could hardly even pay a worker to do, but it’s all worth it. Every sagging ceiling I repair or new cabinet that I install directly contributes to the community’s growth and, more importantly, improves the lives of and provides safe, clean, and affordable housing for the tenants I’ve formed such strong relationships with.
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