Written by Blaine Lewis-Thompson, Community Resource Corps Field Coordinator

In July, for the first time since the pandemic began, water shut offs resumed. The Mayor’s Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteer Service’s Community Resource Corps (CRC) AmeriCorps Program got to work and helped get hundreds of people off the shutoff list. The CRC connected residents with the Customer Assistance Program (CAP). This program can provide much needed debt forgiveness and/or discounted water bills for residents that qualify. People who request a CAP application will have their water shutoff delayed by 14 days and while the application is being processed.

Through this work, the CRC is directly supporting individual customers. Members reach out to inform individuals of upcoming shut offs, and walk them through the CAP application process. This has greatly expanded the capacity of PWD to ensure that residents receive direct, one-on-one help with their water bills.

Residents who need help applying for water bill assistance can also sign up for appointments over Zoom. Through Zoom, the Water Departments offers one-on-one help. Zoom sessions are on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and are currently scheduled through October 26. Signups are available here.

The Community Resource Corps is recruiting new members to join the fall cohort. If you are interested in connecting others with life-sustaining resources, learn more and apply today.

Meeting neighbors where they are

Since April 2022, CRC members have been calling, texting, and visiting homes of people with an incomplete or denied CAP application. Starting July 2022, the CRC shifted focus to helping residents facing water shutoff due to high unpaid bills. Within the first month of this work, the CRC helped 440 residents connect with a Water Department customer assistance option.

What makes the Community Resource Corps different is its members. CRC members are community members trained to directly connect residents with resources. Many programs have the capacity only to inform residents that programs exist. The CRC’s focus is in ensuring that the residents are successful in connecting to the resource.

CRC members:

  • Connect with residents on the shut off list and assist in applying for CAP.
  • Work as the go-between residents and City programs.
    • CRC members assist in real-time, relaying residents’ questions to PWD for immediate responses.
  • Follow up on application status and response.
    • CRC members make sure that customers submit all documents correctly and that they receive a response from PWD.

The CRC has also brought customer feedback to PWD. The Water Department has used this feedback to make changes to their CAP application process. One such change is PWD’s addition of virtual application info sessions via Zoom.

“The Community Resource Corps has established a trusted connection between Water Department assistance programs and communities in need,” said Laura Copeland, Assistant Deputy Commissioner, Education, Community Engagement and Government Affairs for the Water Department. “By meeting customers where they are and providing one-on-one support, more Philadelphians will see the benefits of affordable monthly bills and debt forgiveness. We are very grateful for their efforts and the continued partnership.”

This partnership has also impacted Community Resource Corps members professionally and personally.

Mark Ensley (Moor Ali El), CRC AmeriCorps member said, “This outreach and assistance is a great example of what I expected to do when I sought to join the CRC. It feels good to know our efforts have a direct impact on the quality of life for Philly residents. Instead of being bearers of bad news, we are bringers of blessings and benefits.”

If you are a City department or program looking to expand your outreach capacity, contact the Community Resource Corps at crc@phila.gov.