City of Detroit employees and volunteers handed out free cleaning supplies to hundreds of city residents Thursday. This was part of the City’s ongoing effort to help Detroiters clean up homes damaged by last weekend’s flood. (BridgeDetroit photo by Bryce Huffman)

Six days after Detroit experienced heavy rainfall and flooding, hundreds of Detroiters lined up Thursday morning to receive free cleaning supplies from the City and State.  

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Cars lined up in the Samaritan Center parking lot on Conner Street on the city’s east side as early as 8 a.m. The first batch of cleaning supplies, handed out by the City of Detroit, was gone by in two hours but replenished later.

Hundreds of Detroiters drove to the Samaritan Center on the city’s east side hoping to take home free cleaning supplies. The supplies, which were paid for by the State and City, were being handed out to Detroiters so they could clean up the aftermath of last weekend’s flood. (BridgeDetroit photo by Bryce Huffman)

The demand for help underscores the widespread damage from last week’s rainfall that dumped 6 inches of water on Detroit and overwhelmed city water and sewer systems. At a press conference Monday, the mayor said the City took 2,800 calls from residents whose basements were flooded or whose property was damaged. 

Rex Campbell lives near East Warren and Outer Drive on the city’s east side. The 75-year-old has a heart condition that has made cleaning up challenging. 

“It’s hard to lift all the damaged wood furniture and take shelves up the stairs,” said Campbell, whose wife is disabled. “She can’t even get to our porch anymore. So yeah, it’s difficult right now.” 

Detroit fielded calls from thousands of Detroit residents whose basements flooded over the weekend. (City of Detroit map)

Campbell says whoever is responsible for the flooding should pay the cost of repairs. 

“It shouldn’t be the residents paying because we had no control over it,” he said. 

According to a Michigan Department of Transportation map, at least 28 Metro Detroit pump stations lost power or had mechanical problems overnight. 

Gwendolyn Hollis lives on Fairview on the city’s east side. She lost her washer, dryer, water heater and supplies for her T-shirt business.

“Yeah, local officials should pay,” Hollis said. “Ain’t it their fault the pumps weren’t turned on? Why should it be people in Detroit who don’t have a bunch of money paying for it?” 

Hollis said she will need almost $20,000 to replace her appliances. 

“I just lost everything, I don’t even know how I’m going to restart. I’m at a loss for words,” she said.  

Jeane Penney lives near Cadieux and Mack in East English Village and said she’d never had water in her basement before last weekend. Penney says the city water system has “structural problems” and she believes the government must step in.  

Mayor Mike Duggan and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called on President Joe Biden this week to help Detroiters manage flood damage. Both blamed climate change and aging city infrastructure for the prevalence and severity of the area’s flood damage.

“I just lost everything, I don’t even know how I’m going to restart. I’m at a loss for words.” – Gwendolyn Hollis

Detroit received federal aid in 2014 after experiencing massive flooding. Duggan says this flood has had twice the impact, and officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will be in Detroit on July 8 to survey the damage. 

Duggan is urging residents to take photographs of damaged property and keep receipts for their costs. 

Breanna Sullivan, a volunteer coordinator with the City of Detroit, said the free supplies are available to anyone who was affected by flooding, including people from outside of the city limits. 

“We aren’t going to be asking for IDs or anything, but we would like to prioritize Detroiters since we were the hardest hit” by the flood, Sullivan said. 

The supplies include a bucket, mop, broom, sponge, liquid cleaner and KN95 masks. The City will continue to hand out supplies Friday. 

Bryce Huffman is a reporter for BridgeDetroit. He was formerly a reporter for Michigan Radio, and host of the podcast, Same Same Different.

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