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Volunteers are getting water to Jackson, Mississippi recipients who can't drive

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

After Jackson, Miss.'s water system failed last week, drive-through sites for free bottled water were set up across the city. But what about the people who cannot drive? Stephen Bisaha of the Gulf States Newsroom reports that the city is relying on nonprofits to get the water out.

STEPHAN BISAHA, BYLINE: People in Jackson haven't just been waiting a week for clean water. For many, it's been over a month.

LAKENYA MOORE: Keep in mind, the city of Jackson has been under a boil water notice since July 29.

BISAHA: Lakenya Moore is the chief financial officer for Mississippi Industries for the Blind, which employs people who are blind or visually impaired in Jackson.

MOORE: We've been working on this a month now to get water - actually to deliver it or deliver it to our employees' addresses.

BISAHA: City agencies like the fire department have been passing names of neighborhoods and places that needed deliveries to the aid group. Manager Joe Spicer is happy to get the water, and after 10 years of living in Jackson, he's fallen for the city.

JOE SPICER: You know, it's a great place. We just got to kind of get the things together that we need to get together to make it somewhere where you can bring your family.

BISAHA: One of the things he'd like to see change is for the city to make more of an effort helping visually impaired people like himself. While there are free drive-through water sites across the city, he can't use any of them.

SPICER: Because all of our distribution sites are set up for people that are sighted who can go to pick it up with their car. You know, it's frustrating, but it's been a battle for people that are visually impaired or people that can't get around for a long time.

BISAHA: And it's not just people who are visually impaired who can't make it to the water sites. Aisha Nyandoro's charity Springboard to Opportunities works with five affordable housing communities in Jackson.

AISHA NYANDORO: A lot of the families here don't have access to transportation or access to child care to actually go to the distribution centers, and so it really is about how do we just make sure that the needs within the communities that we work with are addressed.

BISAHA: But even beyond those issues, it takes a lot of gas to wait, in some cases, two hours at a distribution site. Nyandoro says the families she's working with, on average, make about $12,000 a year.

NYANDORO: Time costs. Gas costs. So it's all of these pieces that so many of us take for granted that families are having to negotiate right now.

BISAHA: The state and National Guard have their own water distribution programs, while Jackson is relying on nonprofits for delivering water to homes, according to the Mississippi Rapid Response Coalition. The coalition says it's sending water Nyandoro's way, though she's also been making her own calls to get water to her affordable housing complexes. She finally got hold of a sheriff in Alabama who drove down a trailer's load of water.

NYANDORO: Hey, Sheriff.

UNIDENTIFIED SHERIFF: How are you?

NYANDORO: I'm so...

UNIDENTIFIED SHERIFF: Where do you want me to park at?

BISAHA: Sixty-five-year-old Yvette Day is one of the residents getting a couple of packs from today's delivery. She's thankful for the water, but all this waiting has really gotten to her.

YVETTE DAY: I've been depressed because, you know, I have no one to help me to get the water. I have no way to get the water. So I've been very depressed about it and about this situation here.

BISAHA: Jackson has dealt with boil water notices for decades, so the nonprofits are used to home water deliveries. But those past notices were in just pockets of the city. The groups were not prepared for all of Jackson's water supply to be threatened. The Mississippi Rapid Response Coalition says it should be able to ramp up home deliveries this week.

For NPR News, I'm Stephan Bisaha in Jackson, Miss. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.