2 Months Without Water as a Cancer Patient—Larry's Story

Larry in his home in Detroit. Photo by Arthur Bridgeforth, Jr. 2016.


By Arthur Bridgeforth Jr.


On July 18, 2016, a Detroit Water and Sewerage Department truck pulled up in front of Larry’s Westside Detroit home and a worker got out and promptly shut-off his water service.

Larry’s rental agreement for the house he is renting-to-own was supposed to include all his utilities. Unfortunately, he found out too late that it didn’t include his water.

A week before shutoff, Larry was mailed an outstanding water bill. A day after the letter arrived, Larry went to the Detroit Water and Sewerage office to make arrangements on the bill. But, he was told the entire balance of $246 was due or his service would be shut-off.

Larry, a 62-year-old retiree from GM’s accounting and payroll department who also has cancer, didn’t have the money to pay the balance.

As a result, he was forced to go nearly two months without water service. So Larry, who lives alone with his dog Cokie, had to suffer the personal indignities of foregoing many household conveniences and chores most take for granted.

“The hardest time in my life. I couldn’t wash; I couldn’t clean up. I couldn’t wash dishes. The flushing of the toilet…I didn’t flush it every time. It smelled foul.”Larry on living without running water.

Things looked bleak for Larry as the first month passed without water service. But, thanks to some caring people affiliated with Angel Outreach, a local organization that provides support services for Larry, he was pointed in the right direction for help.

A tip from Shirley, his physical therapist, led him to a helpful social worker he calls Christine—who got in contact with The Human Utility on his behalf.

Roughly two weeks after Christine contacted us, we paid his outstanding water bill and got the water turned on in his name.

“I thank God for those people.” — Larry.

Now Larry says his monthly bills will be manageable going forward as the bills will range between $40 and $50. In addition, Larry will get the bills mailed directly to him.


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The Human Utility, a not-for-profit organization founded in 2014, is dedicated to helping low-income families and seniors in the United States pay their water bills to restore or preserve their service. Through our website, we match donors to families for support. With donations from $5 to $5000 we have helped over 950 families get their water turned back on. Give today. Every drop in the bucket makes a difference!