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The Human Utility

The Human Utility is a non-profit organization providing help to families and makes sure they always have running water at home.

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Water is a human right. But, the United States has a water affordability problem. In places like Detroit, Baltimore, and other cities, families unable to afford their water bills have their water shut off. When this happens, kids can't bathe, people can't wash dishes, and grandparents can't flush their toilets.

The Human Utility's mission is to preserve human dignity by increasing water affordability for all families in the United States through crowdfunding, community-building, and policy action.

On July 18th, 2013, before a small gathering of court reporters and local activists, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder stepped out to a podium and confirmed an unsettling rumor: the city of Detroit was filing for bankruptcy.

No American city of its size or stature had ever so monumentally faltered. Yet, the news surprised no one. “It’s sad, but you could see the writing on the wall,” Terrence Tyson, a long-time Detroit city worker, told The New York Times, shortly afterward. “This has been coming for ages.”

Just 50 years earlier, Detroit had been a flourishing metropolis. As “the cradle of America’s automobile industry,” it had been the country’s fourth-largest city, with a workforce 1.8 million strong. But decades of racial tensions, restructuring, and industry decline took a toll: by the 2010 census, the city’s population had plunged more than 60%. Once a haven of economic growth, Detroit had morphed into what journalists deemed to be a “dystopia” -- a place largely reserved for the disenfranchised who had no means of escaping, and few employment opportunities.

For these residents, bankruptcy came with drastic consequences. An estimated $18-20 billion in debt, the city of Detroit immediately began struggling to recoup funds. The first source it turned to was the Water and Sewage Department, whose bonds accounted for roughly one-third of this debt.

Targeting people who owed the Water Department as little as $150, dozens of blue utilities trucks descended on the fringes of the city to shut off water in 24,000 homes.

And this was just the beginning.

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Detroit, MI
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