It’s a sad day in America when a crowdfunding campaign is needed to help over 80,000 residents of one city gain access to water.
Detroit has lost more than a million residents since 1950 but the water infrastructure and city limits haven’t shrunk, which is why Detroit residents pay some of the highest water rates in the country despite a poverty rate more than double the national average. The water department doesn’t have the resources to keep up with the costs.
The Water and Sewage Department faces pressure to reduce their $90 million in bad debt and as a result, have ordered shutoffs for any customers who owe at least $150 or are two months behind on their bill.
Detroit was once the home of the auto-industry and a very prosperous city but it has since become the largest city ever to file for bankruptcy. The population has dropped from 1.8 million to fewer than 700,000. More than 40 percent of the city’s residents live in poverty.
Residents who have overdue bills can visit the website and submit requests for help by providing their Detroit Water and Sewage Department account number and the overdue amount. They will then be matched with a donor.
While Bell and Tillman don’t live in Detroit (they reside in Oakland and Boston), they still were moved to do something about the water crisis. Their idea to have residents submit account numbers as a part of their request is to provide residents with immediate relief. So far, the website has received over 320 requests for help (one bill was $5,500). From those requests, 19 bills have actually been paid.