Elderly Englewood man has water shut off for 2 years, new city program offers hope to help him get it turned back on

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Some Chicagoans don't have running water at a time when hand washing is so crucial.

One 83-year-old man recently established a payment plan with the city of Chicago, so he wants his water back on. Its been off for two years now.

The I-Team talked to the city and found out about a new program that can help residents reduce their water bills.

It's hard to wash your hands during a pandemic when your water is shut off. The faucets are dry at Hershell Robinson's home in Englewood.

"It bothers me a lot. I haven't been able to wash my hands as much," said Robinson.

He moved here to Englewood 40 years ago to raise his family. In 2018, he was late paying two of his water bills, so the city shut his water off and it's been off ever since.

"When the second bill come out, I was in the hospital and didn't I get a chance to get home and pay it," Robinson said.

He said by the time he got out of the hospital, the water was shut off. He hasn't been able to catch up.

"Every time I'd call, it was up another $100 or $200 and with me being on social security, I had to save the money up which would put me further and further behind," he said.

Late charges and garbage fees brought his bill to more than $1,600. In January, he said the city told him that if he got on a payment plan, starting with a $400 payment, they would reconnect him.

"I was told the water was off too long and I had to pay a licensed plumber to get it cut back on. That was adding to the $1,600 I owed so I haven't been able to do it," Robinson explained.

Instead, Robinson buys cases of bottled water and hauls them back home.

"I wish I could get some help," he said.

Soon after becoming mayor, Lori Lightfoot told residents, "Families deserve to live their lives without the constant financial stress imposed by city government. They need a pathway to compliance to pay their bills."

Then when the pandemic hit Chicago, a moratorium on water shut-offs was put in place.

The I-Team contacted Chicago's Water Department about Robinson. They quickly got back to us saying it's a priority to the mayor "to ensure that every Chicagoan has access to continuous, high-quality drinking water".

The Department of Finance, which handles water billing, "has evaluated this specific account, and since the resident's water has been off, an adjustment was made reducing the bill to $466. Robinson has also been pre-approved for the City's new Utility Billing Relief program, or UBR."

That means if he enrolls in UBR and makes his payments on time for one year, the city will forgive that $466 balance. The hope is that this relief will help Robinson afford a plumber to get his water re-connected.

Robinson is happy about the offer but still skeptical. He is talking with the city and hopes to have his water on soon.

Every situation varies, so to see if you qualify for the city's new Utility Billing Relief Program, click this link.
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