The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is not listening to Detroiters who are unable to pay their water bills.
I have the privilege of listening to some of them every Monday when I volunteer to staff the water hotline (844-429-2837) for We the People of Detroit.
The people who call in for help are desperate to pay their water bills.
Not one caller has asked about free water; they ask only for affordable water. Some entered into a payment plan with DWSD to forestall a shutoff, but they already know that they are not going to be able to meet the requirements which do not take into account income or affordability. The mayor’s 10-Point Plan may help a few, but it is not the answer for my callers.
In September, the United Ways across Michigan issued their ALICE report on poverty for each county in the state.
The report documents that 40 percent of households in Michigan do not have income sufficient to meet their basic needs—including water. In Detroit, it is 67 percent.
The report recommends two important strategies to address this poverty: increase the minimum wage to a living wage, and increase the stock of affordable housing.
If Detroit is to be the Beloved Community about which Martin Luther King spoke, we need leaders with both heart and conscience—leaders who listen.
We can’t wait while Detroit families go without water; lives are at stake.
We must be those leaders.
Mary Ellen Howard, member,
Detroit Peoples Water Board Coalition