DTE Energy Funds Center to Provide Temporary Housing for Families in Crisis

Dec 21, 2010, 14:00 ET from DTE Energy

DETROIT, Dec. 21, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- DTE Energy announced today that it is funding a family shelter in Detroit to provide emergency housing for families that have lost utility service through no fault of their own.

The DTE Energy Family Warmth Center, located at 4545 Chrysler Drive, will open this month and operate through the heating season.  

"We know these are incredibly tough times and that many of our customers are finding themselves in really difficult situations," said Jerry Norcia, MichCon president and COO. "With the coldest months of the season still ahead of us, this facility will provide safe, temporary housing for families that find themselves without utility service through no fault of their own."

The facility can accommodate up to eight families in apartments that include two bedrooms, a kitchen and bath.  Families can stay in the units up to 72 hours.  Counselors and licensed social workers will be available to work with the families to help find alternate, longer-term housing options.  

"The Family Warmth Center is intended specifically for families, so parents and their children can remain together," Norcia said.

The shelter facility is owned by MR Non-Profit Housing Corporation, which is affiliated with the Plymouth United Church of Christ.  The building previously served as housing for developmentally disabled individuals, according to Rev. Nicholas Hood III.

"I am so grateful that we will be able to re-open this facility, and provide much-needed assistance to families in need," Rev. Hood said.

The DTE Energy Family Warmth Center will be operated in partnership with two other local community organizations.  United Way 2-1-1 will make referrals and placements into the center. Franklin Wright Settlements Inc., a 125-year-old human service agency, will operate and maintain the facility. The agency will provide a team of licensed social workers and options counselors to insure residents receive compassionate and quality service.

Franklin Wright Settlements is seeking donations of new bed and bath linens as well as toiletries and personal care items to help provide a comfortable stay for families.  Persons interested in donating items may call Franklin Wright Settlement at (313) 579-1000, extension 248.

Even though DTE Energy provides a number of payment options for customers who struggle to pay their utility bills, households sometimes lose their utility service for circumstances beyond their control.

"Unfortunately, we have seen an increasing number of landlords who have put their tenants at risk by hooking up illegal and dangerous utility connections," Norcia said.  "In these situations, families pay their rent in good faith and still find themselves literally out in the cold."

Norcia added, "While we recognize that DTE Energy can't provide a permanent solution for these families, we can provide a short-term safe, warm environment for families as they seek longer-term solutions."

The DTE Energy Foundation also is providing special grants totaling $100,000 to support five organizations that operate shelters in Detroit – the Detroit Rescue Mission, Cass Community Social Services, COTS, Neighborhood Service Organization and the Salvation Army, Eastern Michigan Division.

Those agencies are among 62 regional food banks and shelter organizations that receive funding from the DTE Energy Foundation and donations from DTE Energy employees.  During the holiday season, the foundation is providing a double match of employee contributions to these organizations.  Employee donations and the matching funds are expected to produce $300,000 for the organizations.

DTE Energy also helps secure funding for agencies that help customers in need. As a result, over the past three years, DTE Energy customers have received $310 million in low-income energy assistance, including $118 million so far this year. The company also reached out to connect customers with available assistance by holding more than 40 customer forums, four Customer Assistance Days and numerous church-centered Community Energy Solutions events.

DTE Energy recently sponsored the Weekend of Giving to raise funds for The Heat and Warmth Fund (THAW), which provides assistance to families struggling to pay their utility bills.  The weekend events – including THAW's annual "Night of Warm Hearts" fundraising event and "Hallelujah for Heat," an inspirational, fundraising gospel concert – raised more than $1 million for THAW.  Those funds are to be distributed to 3,000 customers in need who participated in Customer Assistance Day at Cobo Hall on Dec. 13.

DTE Energy (NYSE: DTE) is a Detroit-based diversified energy company involved in the development and management of energy-related businesses and services nationwide. Its operating units include Detroit Edison, an electric utility serving 2.1 million customers in Southeastern Michigan, MichCon, a natural gas utility serving 1.2 million customers in Michigan and other non-utility, energy businesses focused on gas storage and pipelines, unconventional gas production, power and industrial projects, and energy trading. Information about DTE Energy is available at dteenergy.com and at twitter.com/dte_energy.