There are programs already in place for people who are struggling to pay their water bills by the city, county, and state to avoid shut off regardless of their economic status. Why not focus your efforts on getting people enrolled in those programs; which would ensure they're doing everything within their power to keep water on.
As indicated by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, in the news, talking circles, and community events, there are some that simply choose not to pay their bill over others (i.e. phone, cable, etc...). What is the need to pay your bill if others will do it for you? The city has made a ton of bad decisions but this is not one of them.
Yes, there are people who simply choose not to pay their bills. When we determine that's the case with an applicant, they don't get assistance. Simple.
On top of that, we provide one-time assistance, so there isn't an opportunity to just decide to lean on us and stop paying a bill.
I know people taking advantage of the programs already established and organization like yours. As you may determine a fraud case with some applicants, I would find it very hard to believe there is no fraud.
Perhaps there are some Detroit residents who, if they were just a little more organized, could get themselves into a better situation. But some of them are just in bad situations no matter what they do. And who knows, maybe some of them haven't paid their water bills because they have decided that food, shelter, and medicine are more important. But nah, best to leave them with no running water. Otherwise, how will they learn?
Edit: I suspect if the city of Detroit offered the deal you're suggesting, there would be lines for it around the block (though even these lines would contain only the people who had transportation to get to the line, had someone to watch their children while they worked, etc.).
Solar can be used for distributed generation, why can we not provide distributed water production?
In other cases, people are in situations where they're not earning enough to cover all of their life expenses, but the water department itself has turned them down for assistance. We see their attempts to do the best they can in their payment patterns. $25 here, $50 there as soon as they can.
These are not people that sit around actively looking for handouts. And many people we've helped have volunteered to help us however they can.
And objectively, giving people money works pretty well. https://web.archive.org/web/20101107195857/http://www.econom... https://web.archive.org/web/20141111020223/http://www.vox.co...
"Donors have given over $170,000 for water bills for over 900 families in Detroit." 170 children's lives could have been saved for the same amount.
If you asked the beneficiaries of this project whether they would prefer a life was saved over their water bill being paid, I think most would say save a life.
Though these people are desperately poor (and probably rationally hopeless), they are citizens of a wealthy and powerful nation that will not let them suffer too much like over a billion other people with real problems do.
Watsi.org is a good place to start if you are serious about helping people.
I'm astounded that the practical and serious people at YC are participating in a goofball project like this that is competing for resources with serious efforts to do good.
Not having running water at your house is a real problem. It’s a public health and sanitation issue. People have not been able to flush their toilets, clean, cook, or exist in a state of dignity.
On top of that, without running water in a house in Detroit, a house can be ruled unfit for habitation. That can translate to children being removed from the home because they're in a dwelling unfit for habitation. Preventing families from being broken up isn't goofing around.
It’s a false dichotomy to say that you either save a life by helping a child in a poor country OR give to a water bill in the United States. You can do both in proportion to your ability.
Yes, these people are citizens of a wealthy and powerful nation, but we’ve already seen that it’s allowed them to suffer greatly. The City of Detroit itself—especially before we forced them to react—turned people off with very little regard to someone’s ability to pay.
You should volunteer to help us return phone calls to people that need help. If you do, I’m sure you’ll find that this is as serious a project as any!
Edit: On losing children, etc.
"It’s a false dichotomy to say that you either save a life by helping a child in a poor country OR give to a water bill in the United States. You can do both in proportion to your ability."
For whatever proportion of someone's resources they are willing to give, they can choose to save lives for US$1-5k each.
Instead of providing one $1k life saving surgery and $1k water bill, two $1k surgeries could save two lives.
Sadly there is not a shortage of dying men, women and children who can be saved cheaply.
Perhaps one day there will be... if we stop goofing around.
The single mother of three we helped who was contemplating forgoing her heart medication to make sure her children had water (and lost it anyway because she needed her heart medication) wouldn't call this "goofing around."
I'm genuinely interested in why you insist on framing this that way.
Edit: Nothing that we're doing suggests we value some lives over others. Watsi helps a specific demographic, we help another. Everyone wins here.
When you say "We should value all lives equally," what pops into my head is the question "Of value to whom?"
In fact, if I had to choose between saving the life of a stranger, and choosing to save the life of someone I loved, I'd save the latter. This is because the person I love is a greater value to me than is the stranger.
You're making a fallacious, reductionist argument. Looks like a misreading of Peter Singer.
I imagine you'd also criticize someone for showing a homeless family to the nearest shelter because in that time the person could have signed up for Watsi!*
* ... and this is coming from someone who donates to Watsi every month.
More realistically, though, I think we should understand that different people have different philanthropic interests. Maybe by offering a new cause we expand the total amount of money that people give, instead of taking money from the causes you deem to be more worthy? And isn't there an issue of autonomy here? I suspect we agree that nobody has to give money to anyone at all (except through taxes), so why not allow them the freedom to give in the way they find most meaningful, even if it does not have the greatest 'objective' impact?
Yes, but they're wrong. Imagine seeing a hungry dog on the street. Going over to feed it is a virtuous thing to be sure. But, to step over and ignore someone choking to death on your way to the dog is not.
"give in the way they find most meaningful, even if it does not have the greatest 'objective' impact?"
It's easy to be fooled in our first world fantasy lives, but we are really living a world of men, women and children dying for want of sometimes as few as US$1000. Good is hardly good enough.
Something will surely fill every economic niche. If there are people who want to "donate" to the opera or dogs or cats or toys for tots, then some organization will find a way to serve that niche.
But, I think it is useful to oppose these goofball "charities" and educate people about lives they can save.
The stakes are very high. It is a matter of life and death.
So yes, I view donating to this or the opera similarly to eating a meal.
A meal is a handy rubric because it is quite easy to be either cost conscious or extravagant, thoughtful or oblivious.