Detroit Water Shut off DeMeeko Williams Detroit Water Brigade emergency relief DWB Circle of Blue Todd Zawistowski

Just off Woodward Avenue in Highland Park, a white U-Haul van is parked on the street, though no one is moving into the neighborhood today. A blue sign with white lettering is taped just behind the driver’s side window. It reads “Detroit Water Brigade” with a hotline number scribed beneath. Instead of moving furniture, this van moves water from where it is to where it isn’t within the city of Detroit. The van moves hundreds of gallons of water in big blue jugs, as well as filtration straws and aqua tablets to make rainwater drinkable. The Detroit Water Brigade is a rapid-relief response group that is working to bring emergency relief to families who are facing water shut-offs. They also advocate for an income-based Water Affordability Plan, which has been proposed by the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization. DWB’s headquarters – a 1,600-square-foot brick home, built in 1908 – sits on a large lot that has been named Jakobi RA Park. There are raised-bed gardens with kale and tomatoes. There are park benches and picnic tables. The quiet street is lined with a canopy of black locusts. DeMeeko Williams, in DWB’s signature orange-and-yellow cautionary traffic vest, looks down at his phone, which is buzzing. He still seems surprised by it, though the group has been taking calls for weeks. “We’ve serviced over 55 families,” he says. “Detroit and the country want positivity… We’re trying to bring a positive solution to the city of Detroit. We’re trying to help uplift our residents and citizens here.”

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is a Traverse City-based assistant editor for Circle of Blue. She specializes in data visualization. Interests: Latin America, Social Media, Science, Health, Indigenous Peoples

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