Detroit is in the middle of a serious water crisis. In an effort to drastically cut city services and balance the city’s astronomical debt, the city is undertaking an aggressive policy to shut off the water to 40% of the city residents. Every day, city workers and contractors go around the city shutting people’s water off for unpaid water bills. No water. No showers, no cooking, no washing your hands, no brushing your teeth, no watering the garden, and you damn sure won’t be drinking. They are cutting off water to families with children, pregnant mothers, elderly, disabled, small businesses, churches, private residences, everybody! (who isn’t rich and white).
Crews have disconnected service to 31,300 customers since Jan. 1 due to unpaid bills and will continue that this winter — stopping only during long bouts of below freezing temperatures when the ground is too hard to dig to water connections. At the end of the summer, after intense pressure from activists, the city agreed to a short-term moratorium on the shut-offs. A several-week respite allowed people behind on their bills to enter into payment plans. Shutoffs dropped from a high of 7,200 in June to 1,600 in August. They have since picked back up with 5,100 in September and 4,200 last month.Currently, 74,000 Detroiters are past due on their water bills with bills averaging about $570.
Meanwhile, the people of Detroit have been standing up, protesting the shut-offs and providing water for their neighbors. Groups like the People’s Water Board Coalition and the Detroit Water Brigade have been organizing mass civil resistance, challenging politicians, judges, and the Emergency Manager as they continue to implement the water shut-off policy. In addition, these organizations and others have been mobilizing networks for community self-help, where existing community institutions are provided the tools and resources they need to become a Hub for the distribution of water.
At Auntie Na’s House, we’ve been giving away food, clothes, school materials, toys, and everything else for years. It only seems logical (in this crazy world we live in) that now we would start giving out water. Since August Auntie Na’s House has been involved in water distribution efforts on the Westside of Detroit. The Detroit Water Brigade assisted us in obtaining large water jugs, bottled water, and a rain barrel, for rainwater catchment. Since then, Auntie Na has been turning on her tap, filling up containers are giving out water to all those in need. The Water Brigade also collaborated with Auntie Na’s House in going door-to-door in the neighborhood, passing out information about how to get your water bills paid, and where folks can find free water. Lastly, the Brigade has offered to help pay Auntie Na’s water bills, so that we can continue turning on our taps and giving water to the neighborhood. Many thanks to the Detroit Water Brigade, and all our volunteers!
It is in these times of crisis, that we learn something about human nature, and the true nature of the economy we live in. In Detroit, the Federal, State and City governments are colluding with corporations to dismantle city services, impoverish the community, and destroy the will of the people. Meanwhile, people on the ground are dealing with a situation of dire crisis and scarcity of basic resources. In this moment, we might imagine that the people would turn against each other, hoarding what little water, food, or money they have to preserve their self-interest. But no, instead we see what true compassion, solidarity and community look like. At Auntie Na’s House, we know that water is a human right, that water is the source of all life, and that for the liberation of all people, water must be free. At Auntie Na’s House, we practice what we preach by giving out water to our neighbors – without asking for anything in return, without demanding they show us ID, or prove they are somehow deserving of this water. We give freely because our hearts demand that we show compassion to our people.
If you would like to support the ongoing work at Auntie Na’s House, please consider donating today.
We’re not doing this for the money, but we do need money to sustain the programs, keep the doors open, and keep the water flowing. Many thanks!