Recipient Story: What even is a “ready-to-serve” charge? And should these kids lose their water service because of it?
Edmond H is someone who knows how to navigate complex governmental systems in order to get what he needs for himself and his family. He’s a military veteran and a survivor. But sometimes, even for someone as experienced and skilled as he is, the pieces don’t all fit together.
Thanks to you and your donations, The Human Utility was able to step in at the right moment to give Edmond and his two sons a little extra help, and set them back on their path.
“I wasn’t looking to have more kids,” Edmond admits ruefully. “My kids are mostly grown. But I was having a midlife crisis. I fell in love with a younger woman who did want more kids.” So they did. Ultimately, Edmond and the mother of his two youngest sons weren’t able to make their lives work together. They broke up, and something also appeared to break in the children’s mother. “She came in to some money and she got real wild,” he said.
Child protective services ended up taking the boys away from their mom. They placed them in foster care instead of with Edmond because they didn’t know who he was. The mother didn’t tell CPS about him. Eventually, another family member did. After a fight, Edmond got his boys back.
“Both boys have autism. One has autism and ADHD. So when I got them, they were really messed up. They didn’t know what was going on, being snatched from their mom. But now we’re doing okay.”
Because of their autism, Edmond signed both children up for SSI benefits. Edmond is disabled, and cannot work. He and his boys were living in Warren, Michigan, using a HUD-VASH voucher (like Section 8, but for veterans) to make the cost of their rented home more affordable. But he wanted something better for his boys. He moved to a bigger house in Eastpointe. Michigan.
But that’s when the cascade of troubles started.
Edmond got caught in a money gap. After the SSI payment approval went through (but before he actually started receiving the benefits), Edmond lost both his food stamps benefit from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the $400/month they had been giving him in cash assistance. Next, he lost his HUD-VASH voucher.
“I was paying like $250/month rent with my voucher, but when I lost it that shot up to $750! And all the while, we were still waiting on SSI to start paying. When they did start getting us SSI money, I had to catch up on a lot of bills. I was paying $200 or $300 every other month on the water. But it got crazy because they add on so many things to the water bill. It’s just crazy.”
“It’s real easy to fall behind. Every month, it’s like $160, $170 of new charges on the so-called water bill.”
What does Edmond’s “water” bill include? Water, sewer treatment and four fixed monthly charges that add a minimum of $46 (and usually more) every month to the total:
- station maintenance
- garbage collection
- fire line service
The real problem here is that Eastpointe’s infrastructure is aging and costly. The poorest residents are charged (monthly, fixed) massive costs to maintain it at exactly the same rate as the wealthy. These charges are drowning people like Edmond in debt. It’s no wonder he’s giving up on his dream of buying a home in Eastpointe for his family. “The ‘water’ bill is just too outrageous.”
Thank you, donors, for your gifts. Every day, because of you, The Human Utility can right some of the wrongs. We can be there to help folks like Edmond get out from under debt and continue to enjoy his human right to water.