Hope Against Hardship: How Determination And The Human Utility Helped A Mother Fight Hopelessness

Tiffani Ashley Bell
Dispatches from The Human Utility
3 min readMay 24, 2018


For Dominique A., life is something to be cherished and to be grateful for at all times. She believes maintaining a positive attitude and working hard contributes to creating positive outcomes in life. But, with one downturn after another lately, life seemed to really be stacking the deck against Dominique’s positive outlook.

“I was taking care of (my grandmother), two disabled kids that I was giving shots to every six hours, I couldn’t pay no bills,” said Dominique, a 31-year-old single mom. “My basement flooded, I had to pay $3,500 to get my backyard dug up. So I couldn’t pay no bills, like nothing really.”

If that wasn’t enough, Dominique lost her job as a caretaker when her client, who happened to be her beloved 96-year-old grandmother, passed away in June of 2017. Dominique is also pregnant. The pregnancy forced her doctor to order her on bed rest.

As a result, bills piled up including a water bill that ballooned to $2,300.

This happened while Dominique continued the demanding task of caring for her two sons born with hemophilia, six-year-old Isaiah and three-year-old Grant.

Hemophilia causes a person’s blood to take a long time to clot and stop bleeding. Any slight injury — nose bleed, cut, scratch, or bruise — will continue to bleed.

Dominique was determined to not have her water shut-off. Without it, her home would quickly become unsanitary and she would risk having her children removed from her home — putting additional strain on the foster care system. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, children living in a home without utilities is considered a form of child neglect — even when the issue is actually poverty.

But, thanks to a referral she found The Human Utility.

Dominique had already enlisted help from the Hemophilia Foundation of Michigan, but she was able to convince both organizations to collaborate on helping with her water bill. She qualified for a payment plan, so she only needed $815 of the total balance. The Human Utility paid $400 and the Hemophilia Foundation of Michigan paid $415 of the bill.

“Ms. Marie, she got right on that,” Dominique said of our customer support manager. “I sent her the paperwork and the bill was paid the same day.”

She can pay the remaining balance through the payment plan, making her monthly payments considerably lower. She said her most recent bill was $62.

But, even though the water bill was paid, she still has to contend with her sons’ medical conditions daily. Hemophilia requires the boys to need daily infusions of medication to help their blood clot. Isaiah and Grant also have to wear helmets, kneepads, and elbow pads when playing or doing physical activity to avoid injury and bleeding.

The boys have nose bleeds often — even while sleeping — so that requires Dominique to continuously need to wash loads of laundry and constantly disinfect around the house. She washes at least three loads of clothes daily, but often tries to minimize it to just one load. Water is truly essential to her family’s health and well-being.

Despite recent challenges, Dominique is looking forward to her new baby — a son. She also hopes to resume working as a cashier, having worked in stores and hotels.

Dominique’s father, a chef at Fishbone’s restaurant in Detroit, remains her biggest supporter. He raised her since she was 13 and moved up to Detroit from her native Mobile, Alabama. A strict upbringing made her the resourceful person she is today, she added.

“My father always kept me in the library, kept me reading books,” Dominique said.

Written by Arthur Bridgeforth, Jr. in Detroit, Michigan. May 2018.

The Human Utility is a not-for-profit organization founded in 2014 and dedicated to ensuring dignity for everyone, everyday. We pay water bills for low-income families and seniors in the United States to restore or preserve their service. We’ve helped over 950 families get their water turned back on.

You can save lives and keep families together by giving today.



Tiffani Ashley Bell
Dispatches from The Human Utility

Founder & Executive Director at The @HumanUtility. @HowardU @ycombinator alumna. HKS Fellow. Investor. In 2021, at @StanfordGSB. Water is a human right.