Last Thursday and Friday, Michigan Welfare Rights Organization held its 5th Annual Utility Summit at Wayne County Community College District (WCCCD, Downtown Detroit campus). Attendance by the community, supporting organizations and businesses was beyond expectations! On the first day, over 700 people arrived for help with utility bills; nearly 1000 people attended the next day.
Every Fall and Winter in Detroit, thousands of families face shut-offs in electricity, natural gas, and water to heat their homes. MWRO has been leading the fight to protect families and seniors from shut-offs by coordinating efforts with agencies that provide utility bill assistance, and working with utility companies to proactively address cold weather concerns.
At this year’s MWRO Utility Summit, over a dozen DTE Energy staff came out to help customers enroll in low-income billing plans. Among them was Jerry Norcia, President and COO of Michigan Consolidated (MichCon) Gas, a subsidiary of DTE. This show of support for the community is a remarkable turn-around from six years ago when MWRO led pickets in front of DTE for its inhumane utility shut-offs against Michigan’s poor.
Maureen Taylor, State Chair of MWRO, reported that among other remarkable news at the event was: (1) a report by the Wayne County Treasurers Dept. that it would no longer process foreclosures on homes due to water bills. These cases will be referred back to the City of Detroit for resolution with the homeowner. Another people’s victory!, and (2) The City of Detroit Dept of Human Services will provide up to $3000 toward water, electricity, and natural gas utility bills for families in need.
Many other agencies and organizations also came out to help families protect themselves against Winter shut-offs offering information and resources. They include: Detroit Water and Sewerage Dept, Wayne County Treasurer’s Office, City of Detroit Dept of Human Services, Michigan Dept of Human Services, The Heat and Warmth Fund (THAW), WCCCD, Detroit Urban League, Goodwill Foundation, Crossroads, WARM, the Michigan Veterans Foundation, United Community Housing Coalition, MI Legal Services, United Way, Angel Food Ministries, Perfecting Church, Community Energy Solutions Program, Wayne Metro-Community Action Group, Moratorium Now! Coalition, and more! Special thanks are also due to Wayne Co. Community College District for the Subway sandwich lunch meals and bags they provided to low-income voters.
At this year’s Utility Summit, nearly 2000 families were helped and, hopefully, spared tragic scenarios from freezing temperatures; and heating from candles, open ovens, and dangerous space heaters. Anyone who needs utility help can call MWRO at (312) 964-0618.
Images: First, community members listen to utility resource presentations, photo by Victor Arbulu; second, community residents wait to speak with DTE Energy representatives, photo by Ann Rall.