This is a really cool idea. I'm still aggravated that anyone has to fight to keep their water on, but two techies got together and worked out a way to help people pay their bills.
The Detroit Water Project, a platform to help donors pay the delinquent water bills of people in Detroit, started with a Twitter conversation.
Tiffani Bell and Kristy Tillman have never met in person, but they've enjoyed a social media friendship that began with their mutual love for technology. Last week, their back-and-forth about the Detroit water crisis quickly evolved into a discussion about how to help pay people's overdue water bills.
They launched the Detroit Water Project just hours after their initial Twitter chat and before the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department's postponement was announced. The project initially sought out people who needed help. Soon, their Web site added a field for donors.
Those seeking payment assistance through the Detroit Water Project must fill out a form with their name, address, account number and amount past due. This allows the project to verify their account status. Donors submit their e-mail address and the amount they are willing to pledge; the Detroit Water Project sends directions on how to pay a delinquent bill. The donor does not see the person's name, address or telephone number.
Bell has found that donors respond quickly once they have been matched with a person in need. Bell and Tillman never see any of the money.
This is a very cool way to help people, though I still think Detroit needs to rethink how they plan to dig themselves out of the hole. Maybe they should start with fairer water rates and some help for those unable to pay.