What Works

Part of an occasional series spotlighting good ideas from government agencies and other public servants.

The Problem: Poor, elderly and disabled customers of Dallas Water Utilities (DWU) are often unable to afford minor repairs of water leaks and plumbing problems. This leads to high water bills and can result in water service being cut off if tie bills are not paid.



The Solution: A DWU collection agent suggested a volunteer program whereby members of the 1,600-éerson DWU staff would help repair minor plumbing problems. In February 1992 the Volunteers In Plumbing (VIP) program began servicing customers.



The Result: Through April, the program had received more than 230 referrals. A nonprofit agency determines whether customers fit the criteria (low-income homeowners with no other way to receive help), with preference given to the neediest (the average monthly income of those helped is approximately $622 a month; the average age 67). About 30 percent of those requesting the service actually receive services. Forty volunteer plumbers have already completed more than 45 jobs during their spare time. The average savings is about $ 150 per homeowner.

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