DETROIT, USA: International Social Movement Gathering, Peacemaker Congress stand for people’s right to water, housing


13 June 2015
DETROIT, USA: International Social Movement Gathering, Peacemaker Congress stand for people’s right to water, housing

by Hayden Abene

CPT Executive Director Shares Thompson shares
 about the potential for intentional communities
 to foster a more sustainable future.  Also pictured, 
Monica Lewis Patrick of We the People of Detroit.

Have you ever paused before turning on the faucet and thought, “Wow I can’t believe how incredible it is that I have running water?”  Probably not.  Most of us have never known life without running water in our homes.  Though we each use gallons of water each day for cooking, drinking and hygiene, seldom, if ever, do we think about how dependent our lives are on having access to clean water.  

Until we don’t have access… 

On 29-31 May, CPT Executive Director Sarah Thompson, Intern Hayden Abene, and CPT Palestine team member Cody O’Rourke attended the International Social Movement Gathering on Affordable Housing in Detroit, MI to see firsthand how the city of Detroit is systematically denying thousands of people the human right to clean water and housing.  Hosted by the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization (MWRO)and the Detroit People’s Water Board, they joined over 300 people from forty-seven states and ten countries to share stories of injustice, resilience and generosity, and to strategize actionable ways to defend the human right to water, sanitation and affordable housing. 

In July, Christian Peacemaker Teams will be holding a special delegation and Peacemaker Congress in Detroit exploring the parallels of the human rights conditions in Detroit and our projects around the world. 

The facts are grim.

  • In 2014, more than 35,000 Detroit households—an estimated 96,000 individuals—lost water service due to nonpayment.[1] 
  • According to MWRO, between 17,000 and 18,000 Detroit households remain without water. 
  • Last week alone, the Water and Sewage Department shut off water to nearly 1,000 delinquent accounts, despite the city council resolution calling for a moratorium on shutoffs.  

Facilitated by the regionalization deal of Detroit’s bankruptcy settlement, appointed emergency manager Kevyn Orr has increasingly privatized public services, turning systems of operation and management over to profit-driven corporations and banks.  The profiteering of this corporate takeover is not only drastically raising the cost of utilities—water and sewer bills have more than doubled in the last decade—but it is also forcing thousands of people into poverty.  As the State Chair of MWRO said, “[These corporations] are making my beloved city a tourist trap that I can’t afford to visit.” 

One of more than 82,000 vacant 
house in Detroit 

Amidst the class warfare, ecological degradations, and housing insecurity, land and water lie at the vanguard of violence and occupation.  Activist Valerie Jean said, “We all recognize we are at a moment when we have to make a choice.  Are we going to protect our communities and make sure everyone is ok, or are we going to turn into the future city planned for us?  That is the future city where they want my neighborhood, but they don’t want me in it.” 

We cannot rest in idle complacency.  The cry of thirst must be our call to action.  As James Perkinson wrote, “Thirst is a shared condition. And none of us created the water it craves.”[2] 

We are pledged to do all that we can to non-violently stop the shutoffs, restore service, and implement the water affordability plan.  Come, July 17-19, and renew your commitment to faithful peacemaking by joining us in the struggle for a more sustainable and just Detroit, inclusive of all.

 May justice truly roll down like a mighty stream.


[1] Calc. 1. DWSD. Finance Committee Binder. February 17, 2015 at 5; U.S. Census. Detroit Quick Facts.


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