Michigan Planners Network volunteers in Flint

Flint water crisis

Flint resident LeeAnne Walters shows water samples from her home from January 15 and 21, 2015. Source.

On Sunday, February 14 a group of urban planning students (and one architect!) spent our Valentine’s Day volunteering in Flint. There has been a flurry of activity and conversation on campus around the Flint water crisis since the story began making headlines last year. The School of Public Health and School of Natural Resources in particular have been active in organizing educational opportunities to inform students, faculty, and the larger Ann Arbor community of the crisis and its implications. Planners Network also felt compelled to show our solidarity with Flint through service.

We spent the bitterly cold February afternoon canvassing with a collective of community organizers in a campaign called Flint Rising. This group is an impressive grassroots coalition of social workers, residents, and otherwise passionate individuals that got together to identify immediate needs as a result of the poisoned water and address them. Block by block, Flint Rising is sending canvassers to every door in the city, triaging, collecting information, and encouraging residents to come out to community meetings to have their voices heard.

Our job was to knock on doors and assess urgent needs–Do you have bottled water? Do you know where to get it? Do you have a water filter? Are you homebound? Are there any pregnant or breastfeeding women in the home?–and relay the information back to a rapid response team of social workers that would address the issues in a timely fashion.

We were humbled by the incredible spirit of the leaders organizing this effort. The city has been ignored and abused by people in power and local community members have stepped in to take care of one another. It’s a beautiful thing and we don’t think we could have spent our Valentine’s Day in a more loving way.


We know it can be overwhelming to know how to make an impact on top of an already brimming schedule, but there are still many ways to get involved if you are interested!

  • Flint Rising needs canvassers and people for data entry each weekend. You can sign up here to get on their email list for more details on helping out. Planners Network is also planning to canvass again, likely in March. Contact pn-contact@umich.edu if you’d like to join us.
  • Students from the Architectural Representative Committee (ARC) at Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning are organizing a Habitat for Humanity project in Flint in the month of March. Contact ARC at arch.sab@umich.edu to sign up.
  • A coalition of graduate students is planning a Teach-In for Flint later this semester bringing together a variety of disciplines to educate the larger University community on the water crisis. Contact Teona Williams at teonawil@umich.edu if you’d like to get involved in the planning process.

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