Homeless Detroit man bought abandoned house, spent 10 years renovating for wife

Work hard and never give up. It may sound trite, but perseverance can yield some amazing results. Such is the case for one Detroit man, who found himself homeless. With ten years of hard work, he was able to turn an abandoned house into a dream home.

The Road To The Abandoned House

Michael Gray, who is 67 years old and elegant-looking in a pinstripe suit and bow tie, cuts a fine picture. Surprisingly, just ten years ago, he was homeless. Struggling to find a job in Detroit, where he had lived all his life, things were tough.

“I had been going through a rough time in my life,” he confesses. “I was staying with my niece and sleeping in her basement.” His difficulty finding jobs was due to the difficult economic situation of Detroit, rather than his own situation. Gray has a good education and worked a variety of jobs in his life.

In 1986, he graduated from Spring Arbor University with a double major in English and psychology. While in his niece’s basement, he, “began to craft my rehab skills working as a laborer for guys who were fixing up homes to rent,” he said

His Nephew’s Abandoned House

In spite of this, in 2008 something life-changing happened. While riding his bike, Gray was struck by a car. For many of us, this would seem like one more misfortune in a long series of them. Fortunately, Michael Gray is more resilient than most. He took the settlement money he received from the accident and used it to purchase a house. “My wife had been with me through thick and thin,” says Gray. “And I told her that I was going to give her a house that she would be really proud to keep, live in, and show off.” At the time, Cynthia, his now-wife, was still his fiancee. 

Gray purchased the abandoned property from his nephew, a broker for Global Property Investment Group. The company deals in commercial real estate, but when properties in their holdings weren’t suitable, they could be sold to private buyers–such as Gray.

The Condition of The Abandoned House

Gray paid $1,500 for the abandoned house, but many locals were wondering if it was worth it. There were loose wires sticking out from the walls. There were a variety of pests, including mites, mice and spiders. The paint was peeling. The bathroom was covered in rust – not that it mattered because the plumbing was just not working. Nevertheless, Gray moved in.

“In Detroit, if you’re not there, or you don’t have someone there, someone will come in and take your stuff,” Gray explained. “It’s gone in a matter of 15 minutes.” Determined to, “make it a family home forever,” Gray slept on an air mattress in one of the four bedrooms, while he, “tore everything out, all the way down to the studs.” 

Gray did almost everything himself, and what he couldn’t do alone, friends assisted with. In 2012, he’d transformed most of the abandoned house into the home he had dreamed of–although repairs and renovations are still ongoing.

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