In October 2015, the city and the state admitted the extent of the issues with the water supply and again began purchasing water from Detroit. However, concerns remain due to pipe corrosion that the Flint River water caused in the pipes, creating a continued leaching of lead.
For the people of Flint, this means continuing to use filtered or bottled water for drinking, cooking, cleaning, bathing.
Catholic Charities is offering help, starting with the most vulnerable – children, infants and the unborn.
"Since about October, November we've been giving either a case of water or a gallon jug of water to every mother coming to pick up diapers," Schultz said, so that mothers can use fresh water in formula and other care for their children.
The organization is also ensuring that its foster children receive the care – and access to clean water – they need. This means lead tests, water filters and regular cases of water. The same is true for the other houses run by Catholic Charities and the services that it offers.
In addition, the water crisis is forcing the organization to reconsider its future plans. Schultz told CNA that she has been planning for years to create a space for homeless clients in Flint to shower and do laundry, and that the project was moving forward.
Now, however, those plans have to be reconsidered. "I don't know if we've even incorporated anything about a water filtration system. And now I'm thinking we have to do that," she said. "We have to think ahead because if the city doesn't have this resolved and we're in the process of renovating a building – we have to think about it." Schultz noted that similar concerns over adding filtration systems are affecting hospitals, schools and other community services.
The challenges brought by the water crisis raise serious questions as to what the future of Catholic Charities services will look like. "There's so many pieces and we're not set up with the infrastructure to deal with the crisis," Schultz admitted.
Addressing mental health needs – both from the emotional impact of the crisis and from the physical impact of the lead poisoning itself – is another prime concern. "We've got a lot of people very anxious," she explained. "They're worried about their children."
Health care for the children suffering from lead poisoning is a grave concern. Children bearing the consequences of water contamination will be in even greater need for access to healthy, balanced and safe meals for the best outcomes, she explained.
And even so, she added, "It's lead poisoning. It's never reversible."
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"Are we going to pay for this for the next 20-something years of these kids' lives in school and everything else?" she questioned. "I don't know what this means for the future, for these kids who could be affected by this lead."
Schultz said she is also concerned about how to fund a long-term response to the water contamination. Flint was already facing high poverty levels before the crisis, she explained, and it is uncertain whether money to back any possible solution will materialize.
The workers at Catholic Charities are not immune from the water crisis, Schultz noted, explaining that this makes the task even more difficult, particularly when it comes to counseling people and reassuring them when at times it is tough to know what information is true.
But despite the challenges before them, Catholic Charities will "carry on," she told CNA. "We're trying. I just don't think we were prepared for anything like this, and we're just trying to find our way through it."
Still, hope remains. Since the news of the situation in Flint has spread, Schultz has been floored by the public concern, which she calls "a Godsend."
"It's been crazy, because we're getting calls from all over the country," she said. "It is unbelievable the outpouring of support, concern – we know it's across the entire nation."