Surviving a Summer without Water

By Panne, Valerie Vande | In These Times, October 2018 | Go to article overview

Surviving a Summer without Water


Panne, Valerie Vande, In These Times


DETROIT-It's north of 90 degrees and humid, and Rev. Roslyn Murray Bouier is sweating bullets at the Brightmoor Connection Food Pantry in Detroit as she directs more than a dozen volunteers unloading 84 C3ses of water from a U-Haul. It's for Detroiters without running water.

People stand by, waiting for their turn. A mother with two young children picks up ic cases. One woman who lives with her five grandchildren has a rash on her arms-perhaps from stress, perhaps from not having running water, perhaps both. The mother and the grandmother are terrified to talk with In These Times. They have reason: According to activists, Child Protective Services (CPS) often removes children from homes that don't have water (although CPS, maintains that a water shutoff is never the sole reason for removal). Valerie Jean Blakely, an activist who helped organize her neighbors against a mass water shutoff, says that some parents keep their children home from school for fear they'll let slip to teachers that they have no water and CPS will be called.

Bankrupt, Detroit implemented the shut-off policy in 2014. Since then, according to the nonprofit We the People of Detroit Community Research Collective, more than 100,000 households have had their water turned off. The shutcffs can begin fast, when a bill of just S150 is 30 days past due.

Detroit has both the highest poverty rate of any major U.S. city, at 36 percent, and among the highest water rates. According to a recent University of Michigan study, water bills in the Detroit metro area average $100 a month, about twice what federal affordability standards dictate.

The city offers a payment plan for those with past due bills to get their water back on, but many residents see it as a scam. Bouier says it requires payments as high as $200 a month, which may amount to half the paycheck of those on fixed incomes or whc can only work part-time.

The city, meanwhile, has found the money to pay subcontractor Homrich-a wrecking company-$7.8 million to turn off Detroiters' water over the next three years. Seventeen thousand homes were at risk of shutoff this summer. …

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