The nights have started getting colder in southeast Michigan and low income families are struggling to keep warm. With the socioeconomic crises in Detroit and surrounding areas–no jobs, layoffs, home foreclosures, wide-scale poverty, very low food security, illness–many poor and fixed income households often have to decide between which bills to pay.
Low income families living in large, old, poorly insulated homes in Detroit and Highland Park more often than not are unable to pay altogether for electricity, natural gas, and water. So they make small payments hoping that it will suffice but it doesn’t.
Early this morning, another family in Highland Park became victim to poverty fires–dying in one’s home because you can’t afford to pay for the utility(ies) you need to properly heat it. A beloved grandmother and her three young grandchildren (5, 8, and 10) burned in their home while the children’s mother and other relatives luckily managed to escape. According to the Detroit Free Press, the fire department confirmed what neighbors already knew: the fire started from a small space heater used to keep the children warm while they slept.
Yesterday, a neighbor shared information with the grandmother about getting help with her heat bill through THAW, an agency that assists low income families with high bills and getting utilities turned back on. THAW is largely funded through redirected funds from DTE–the Detroit-based utility company that shut-off the family’s natural gas in the first place!
Corporations should not be making profits off of the utilities needed for supporting life. We all have the right to shelter, heat, food, water, clothing, and other human rights…and no corporate bottom line should determine who stays warm or who dies. This tragedy, along with neighboring burned homes, never had to happen if low-income families had better assistance, better resources, better information about how to protect their families!
Michigan Welfare Rights Organization is organizing its annual Utility Summit to help families and individuals learn how to avoid utility shut-offs and get assistance. Please encourage your family, friends, and neighbors to attend as we try to put an end to the horror of poverty fires!
MWRO UTILITY CRISIS SUMMIT
Wayne County Community College, Downtown Campus
1001 W. Fort St, Detroit, MI 48226
Thursday, Oct. 23 for surnames beginning A-L
Friday, Oct. 24 for surnames beginning M-Z
Learn how to avoid utility shut-offs and home foreclosures!
Bring your bills…Show your voter registration card and get a free meal!
Register at (313) 258-6826