Casha says his plans are not as elaborate as this home, built by Rayco Technologies, but the idea is similar

“Let’s salvage unused tunnel segments to create an innovative, sustainable cooperative care community for the homeless.” – Jim Casha

Special to the VOICE OF DETROIT

 As a follow up to the Dec 26th VOD article “One Man’s War Against Detroit Contractor Corruption”, tunnel inspector Jim Casha has come up with a solution for the Corktown homeless problem, recently publicized in the city’s daily media. 

Jim Casha

“The homeless obviously need homes – at the very minimum,” says Casha. “Let’s use the surplus 21 ft. diameter precast concrete segments, left over from the failed Detroit River Outfall -2 Tunnel project, to create low cost, energy efficient, durable, round, single room occupancy (SRO) homes for the homeless. These could be set up in cooperative care communities all over the DWSD serviced region,” says Casha.

Simplicity of construction, energy efficiency, durability, flexibility of design and layout are just a few of the advantages of round concrete construction. 

Before discounting the idea, Casha says, check out the advantages to building round:

“The city was going to pay $100,000’s to have the segments destroyed. Why? Let’s use them. They cost millions.”

Precast tunnel segment

Casha estimates it will cost about $10,000 per unit to turn one 21 ft. diameter ‘ring’ into a 350 sq. ft. home. Using concrete floors with radiant tubing heat and a concrete roof these homes will be indestructible and last for hundreds of years. There are approximately 700 rings available.

“That’s 700 people minimum off the street. The homes are cozy enough for two and if we cluster them around a central ‘core’ it would be ideal for a family. The possibilities are endless. What do we have to lose? Detroit certainly has the land and if we cluster them near support services we can really start caring for the homeless,” Casha says.

Casha’s original plan was to build precast concrete square or rectangular housing as a way to provide simple, permanent homes for individuals affected by fetal alcohol exposure like his adopted brothers. See article.

Tunnel pieces at W. Jefferson and Brennan, near WWTP

“Many of the children affected by prenatal alcohol exposure will be tomorrow’s homeless, substance abusers, and jail and prison occupants. We have to stop this,” he says.

Casha has advocated relentlessly in Lansing and Washington, D.C. for a small increase in alcohol taxes to raise the funds needed to try and offer these children some chance for a normal life. His pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

Casha says he got Governor Rick Snyder to admit, and put on his platform, the need to care for the mentally ill and disabled so as to keep them out of prison – but he couldn’t convince the ‘CPA’ in Rick that collecting one dollar in alcohol taxes and spending nine dollars to try and undo the damage was not a very good business model.

See Center for Science in the Public Interest website:

Logo from the Center for Science in the Public Interest

“Maybe it has something to do with guys that were good in math, but couldn’t hack engineering school, becoming CPA’s”, says Casha.

Ironically, the last time he cornered then candidate for governor Rick Snyder about an alcohol tax increase was when he ‘crashed’ a press conference Snyder was having with Gov. Milliken in front  of Phil Cooley’s Slows Bar B.Q, in Corktown.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder

“I couldn’t believe it. I turned onto Michigan Ave. and there they were. Just like God had set them up! I asked Gov. Milliken to tell Rick that, if he was elected, he needed to raise alcohol taxes so Michigan could once again be a leader in childcare and community mental health care. Rick’s face got all red and he went into a song and dance about not raising any taxes that he would find the money somewhere. Maybe he will – but what if he doesn’t – and how long is it going to take – and does he understand the magnitude of the problem he has to deal with?”  

Casha says he has a letter addressed to his 83 year-old mother from 1981, signed by Gov. Milliken thanking her for her concern for the developmentally disabled and assuring her that Michigan was a leader in Community Mental Health Care. “I was honored to have had the opportunity to meet him in person and shake his hand”, says Casha.

In another irony, the last time the beer tax was changed in Michigan was in 1962 when Milliken was Lt. Governor – and then they lowered it!

Casha would also like to get the Diponio family to help with showing how the tunnel segments could be used to create low cost housing. (See earlier VOD article, “Pastor condemns attack on homeless man in Corktown,” an attack that was carried out by Steve DiPonio, brother of Jay-Dee Contractors CEO Tom DiPonio.)

Steve DiPonio

“Steve obviously has a lot of talent when it comes to home renovation. It would be great if we could use it to make a positive contribution to solving the Corktown homeless problem. I’m not so sure about my old classmate, Steve’s brother Tom. When we were at U of D, Tom told me it was “easier building a tunnel than a house” – and since they couldn’t build the tunnel, well… (just kidding, Tom).”

Casha even has a name for the project – Van Gogh’s Bedroom. “A lot of people don’t realize that Van Gogh was deeply moved by the plight of the poor and his zeal so great to help them that the Church rejected him!”

“‘He has sent me to preach the Gospel to the poor,’ declared Vincent Van Gogh to his brother, Theo, in a letter dated 1876.” 

From Preaching to Painting: Van Gogh’s Religious Zeal by Kathleen Powers Erickson.

“ Sort of like the late Rev. Covington, from, I am My Brother’s Keeper just up the road. It would be a great honor to the Rev. Covington if the first ones were built near his church. I’ll get the walls up – Mitch (Steve) can fix the big ‘hole in the roof’.”

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  1. Amanda Casha says:

    I am extremely proud of my cousin for standing up against corruption, and for the less fortunate.

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