Monday, May 8, 2017

The ladies who kept the water flowing

Three years ago, Detroit started the process of shutting off water to residents behind on their payments. That typically included the city's poorest and most vulnerable people. Many people around the country, including the UN, called the practice a human rights violation. Despite that, the practice continues today.

Tiffani Bell, working on a fellowship in the city of Atlanta, stumbled across a Twitter post about the situation in Detroit. She learned that if a $150 bill was unpaid for 2 months, water service could legally be shut off. That made no sense to her, and Twitter acquaintance Kristy Tillman agreed. The two women put their heads together and let their hearts lead them. Within days, they set up a page for donation pledges, and started to connect with folks in the most need. In a few weeks, the workload of managing donations and notifying residents grew to a full-time job.

Eventually, Bell and Tillman founded a non-profit called The Detroit Water Project. In a year, they collected over $170,000 to pay water bills for over 900 Detroit families.  Of course, problems paying the bill are not isolated to Detroit, so the project has expanded to Baltimore. The non-profit, now called The Human Utility, hopes to continue to expand its model to other cities and communities.

Another example of two people who saw a problem and didn't just sit by and let it happen. Tiffani Bell and Kristy Tillman became part of the solution.

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