Site Matches Donors with People in Detroit Unable to Pay Their Water Bills

Site Matches Donors with People in Detroit Unable to Pay Their Water Bills

Turn On Detroit's Water is helping the city's residents get their water back on by asking the web for donations

Sara Roncero-Menendez
  • 25 july 2014

As more and more people find themselves unable to procure employment, the more whole families are losing electricity, heat and, most importantly, clean water. From there, most will end up homeless, desperate to enter packed shelters. Few cities in the United States were hit as hard as Detroit, which has higher than average unemployment rates and foreclosures.

Turn On Detroit’s Water allows people to help pay for the water bill of a family in need. The project was developed when a bankruptcy judge ordered the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to find a solution for the thousands of residents who could not pay their overdue water bills.

The way the website works is fairly simple. Detroit account holders who owe $250 or less to the Detroit Water and Sewage Department can enter their information, including their address, account number, past and current charges, and total account balance, all of which is verified through the Detroit Water and Sewage Department website. On the other end, a donor inputs their email into the system and receives the account holder’s information (though not their name) so the bill can be paid. Donors can also specify a specific amount they would like to donate if they cannot pay for one entire bill, or would like to donate one large lump sum. Not corporate accounts are allowed, so all the money will go to help individual families in need.

The site was put together by Tiffani Ashley Bell and Kristy Tillman who were looking for a way to help delinquent account holders get their water turned back on. They first began finding families in need and donors who could help them, and, at the time of writing, 2300 donors ready to give to Detroit residents, with a confirmed $15,000 in payments made directly to the DWSD, and will continue the website so long as there is a need.

While the goal was a citizen-to-citizen solution to this problem, Tillman tells PSFK that they would possibly like to be a part of a more permanent answer:

This is a very lean, in the now campaign and we are very pointed in helping relieve the burden of being behind on such an essential service as water for Detroit residents. But I’d say we’d like to eventually get involved in tackling more structural issues that has lead us to the point. The situation is complicated and we are fully aware that just paying the bills isn’t the end of the problem.

Turn On Detroit’s Water

[h/t] CityLab

Image courtesy of Steve Johnson.

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