So often we write stories about the ratchetivity of “reality” shows or the drama that is caused by our fellow man through shootings and stabbings. However, today we are happy to tell you about some people who are doing something wonderful and with very little fanfare…until now that is!
According to the Washington Post, the Detroit Water Project, is a platform to help donors pay the delinquent water bills of people in need in Detroit. The project started with a simple Twitter conversation between two tweeps that just wanted to make a difference.
Tiffani Bell and Kristy Tillman may not have ever met in person, but that didn’t stop the virtual friends from jumping in and finding a way to help pay people’s overdue water bills.
Detroit Water and Sewerage Department customers have not been able to pay their bills. Reports are claiming that about 91,000 customers have delinquent accounts. As of April 30th of this year, those past due accounts owed a total of about $540.01 on average.
Last week, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department was preparing to finally go ahead and cut off water to those customers. Which would make life in an already beleaguered city that much harder to survive in . No water means no access to showers, or hand washing or even formula for babies. It’s a health crisis in the making. Cutting the water off at this point has been seen as inhumane to most onlookers.
But beyond that, the people of Detroit reportedly have already been hit with an unemployment rate of 14% which is almost double the national rate. Families are trying to keep a roof over their heads which is already hard enough. It makes no sense to pay on a water bill if paying that bill means you lose the home in which that water would be flowing!
They are owed millions upon millions of dollars in back pay from huge companies and complexes around Detroit, however the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department was not going to turn off the water to those accounts. They decided to only shut off water to the little guys who owed a few hundred dollars.
Protests began to spring up both inside and outside of Detroit because of the icky feeling that people have gotten in their stomachs upon hearing this story. These protests and even international pressure, seem to have bought some more time for the people in the city. Thankfully, the water company is now saying that it’s delaying the water turn-off until the end of July so residents in the hard-hit city can prove that they don’t have enough money to pay their bill.
So where do Tiffani Bell and Kristy Tillman fit in to all of this? Well, in an interview earlier this week Bell said,
“Both of us wanted to help people. We were both willing to pay a bill for someone. But how were we supposed to do that?”
With Bell, in Oakland, California and Tillman, in Boston they decided there needed to be a way that people who weren’t in the local area could help pay off some of the debt. So they decided to build a platform that would enable others to help Detroit residents pay their water bills.
Within hours the Detroit Water Project was born. The project initially sought out people who needed help. Soon, their Web site added a field for donors.
Those seeking payment assistance through the Detroit Water Project must fill out a form with their name, address, account number and amount past due. This allows the project to verify their account status. Donors submit their e-mail address and the amount they are willing to pledge; the Detroit Water Project sends directions on how to pay a delinquent bill. The donor does not see the person’s name, address or telephone number.
Bell has found that donors respond quickly once they have been matched with a person in need. Bell and Tillman never see any of the money.
“We’ve been able to completely pay down 16 accounts who owed as much as $600. Many donations are in the range of $20-100 with some donations going as high as $2,500.”
Although Detroit residents have until the end of July to avoid the water shut-off, Bell said she and Tillman have no plans to end the Detroit Water Project anytime soon.
“If they owe now, they are going to owe 15 days from now.”
We think these two should be commended in a big way. They are living proof that something as simple as a back and forth discussion on Twitter can result in change and some good in the world. It’s great to see that people are using their social media reach for more than superficial means. Salute ladies!
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