DTE Energy has announced that it is funding a new shelter in Detroit to provide emergency housing for families that have lost utility service through no fault of their own.

DTE officials spoke about the project Tuesday, nearly one year after a Detroit mother lost three of her young children in a fire on Banger Street, blamed on an illegal utility hookup.

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“The tenants thought that they were covered and protected, but the landlords had not paid — and we cannot provide free energy service. As a result we had to shut the service off,” said DTE Customer Service Vice President Joyce Hayes-Giles.

WWJ’s Florence Walton spoke with United Way 2-1-1 Director Dave Barteck who explained why the DTE Family Warmth Center is unique.

“We get hundreds of calls in every day, and many of them are folks in our area and region needing shelter. And, this is amazing resource, because one of the most dramatic unmet needs that we have here in the region and in the city are resources for families to stay intact,” Barteck said.

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“There are many resources out there for individuals. You know, males or females, or females with children, but not to keep families intact,” he said.

The 2-1-1 telephone service will make referrals to the Center while the Franklin Wright Settlement will operate the facility, located at 4545 Chrysler Drive.

The building 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 social workers will be available to work with the families to help find  longer-term housing options.  

The Center will open this month and operate through the heating season. 

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The new shelter 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.  Those interested in donating items may call Franklin Wright Settlement at (313) 579-1000, extension 248.