New help from THAW for families facing water shutoffs

As thousands of Detroiters face another round of water shutoffs this week, The Heat and Warmth Fund is planning to give struggling families some relief. 

Saunteel Jenkins, THAW CEO and former Detroit City Council member, says the charity is creating its own water assistance program, which launches June 1.

It is all possible because of a $1 million donation from New York-based banking firm Miller Buckfire, as part of last year's bankruptcy settlement..

"THAW will be able to help families stabilize the entire household," Jenkins said.

She says it is the largest private donation the organization has ever received. 

"When I got this call, tears ran down my eyes," she said. 

Jenkins says THAW will pay up to $2,500 to families in shutoff status. Those eligible make an income of up to 200-percent of the poverty level.

"So for a family of three, that's about $39,000 you can make up to," Jenkins said. "And qualify for this program."

Jenkins says THAW's pilot water aid program helped roughly 700 people, and says as the average household of those behind on payment  owe roughly $650, she says this program will help thousands.

"One of the things we worked out with the water department is while we are processing, once people apply they will not be shutoff," Jenkins said. "While we are going through the process."

As the program launches in less than a week, Jenkins says she hopes the program will not only help struggling families, but will also help pay off some debt and continue to move the city in the right direction.

"Often when you are in crisis you do feel helpless, you don't know what to do," Jenkins said. "I would just say don't panic."

Jenkins said that although the program can't help those getting their water shutoff Tuesday, she does expect it to help thousands in the near future.

For more information, call 1-800-866-8429 on or after June 1 and online, go to and click on the Get Help button.
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