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Inkster activist eyes childhood home for latest community project

Posted at 5:49 AM, Feb 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-04 08:40:09-05

(WXYZ) — If you live in Inkster, chances are you know Joe Claybron.

By day, he works as a tax preparer, but he wears a lot of hats in his community. Chief among them is that of an activist and mentor.

Whether it's delivering new home appliances and electronics to people living in Inkster Public Housing, or turning his own tax office into a warming center when temps dropped into the single digits last year; Joe always seems to find a way to help those who are down on their luck.

“I was always taught the best way to find yourself is to get lost in the care of others. So, that’s what I’m doing," he said.

It might be because Joe himself knows what it's like.

He went from a star youth and high school athlete to spending years behind bars at just 18.

“It was a conscious decision that I made that was a wrong decision, and I paid my time for it," he said of his sentence for gun possession and armed robbery, which landed him in prison for fifteen years.

But it was while Joe was behind bars that he started what would become his life's mission; building Inkster back up.

“I picked up business degrees, I picked up art degrees, I picked up all types of journeyman certificates. So I utilized my time," he told Action News.

"The best way in my way eyes to actually get the process done is to utilize the people that helped destroy it."

So Joe founded a group called Nubit, also while he was serving time. It's built up with other activists, many of them also returning citizens working to among other things, make sure Inkster's youth is part of the city's bright future. The group has worked with City Hall on a number of its initiatives.

Related: 'We kind of tore up the community, so we kind of want to give back,' Inkster activists work to take back their city

Joe's next project is turning a piece of his own youth into a way to give back too.

His childhood home, now vacant and in need of some repairs, but a place he wants to turn into a safe haven; a transition home for women escaping violence.

“We’ll turn this room into the office," he told Action News, walking us through the upstairs.

Joe already runs job training programs and works regularly with Inkster's youth. He also supports non-violence initiatives, but his group doesn't have a network yet to support women escaping bad situations, so in deciding what to do with his old home, it was a no brainer.

He's drawn up design plans and hopes to see the project through by 2022, but the pandemic has delayed some of the work. He'll still need certain permits, security, staff, and the rehabbing of the actual building, and for that Joe plans to foot the bill.

"Well to be perfectly honest with you, a lot of it comes straight out of pocket.”

But it's something he feels will be worth it not only for him and his team, but for Inkster.

"This is something that we fought for as a unit. This wasn’t just an individual dream," he said.