Written by: Cherryland

Heather Abraham speaks at podium with man listening

Imagine this: You’re working a low-paying job in the city. Cost of living in the city is too expensive, so you rent a place that’s 30 minutes away. Between gas, food, and the rent, you’re barely scraping by.

One day, your car breaks down. Next you are struggling to get to and from your job that’s a half hour away. You start losing shifts and the money you desperately need to survive. Now you are reading an eviction notice. In what seems like an instant, you are staring into the face of homelessness.

What are you going to do now?

Attorney Heather Abraham has seen this scenario play out all too often. “While working in Washington, D.C., as a staffer on Capitol Hill, I was living in a low-income neighborhood and saw firsthand the struggles people met when facing eviction,” explained Abraham. “That’s when I knew that I wanted to become a housing attorney.”

Abraham works with Legal Services of Northern Michigan (LSNM). LSNM promotes equal access to justice by providing free civil legal services to people living at or below 125 percent of the federal poverty level or who are 60 years or older in northern Michigan.

“While the law guarantees access to legal representation in criminal cases, representation is not guaranteed in civil cases, which can be equally difficult to navigate,” explained Abraham. “Our job is to be a watchdog for the people we serve and empower them to make informed decisions.”

Last year, LSNM received a Cherryland Cares grant to revitalize the Eviction Diversion Program—a partnership between the 86th District Court of Grand Traverse County and local social services agencies. It provides temporary rental and utility assistance for low-income residents during short-term crises such as medical emergencies or the breakdown of a family vehicle. The Cherryland Cares grant funds free, on-site legal advice to low-income tenants facing eviction.

“Imagine homelessness on a continuum,” said Abraham. “By proactively intervening with free legal services to avoid evictions, we have the potential to dramatically decrease the incidence of homelessness in our community.”

Abraham’s efforts have already had a significant impact. In her first year, Abraham has advised or represented approximately 200 clients facing imminent homelessness.

“The commitment and enthusiasm of our community partners and the 86th District Court has been remarkable,” said Abraham. “We all understand that, in the end, everyone benefits from ending needless homelessness,” said Abraham.

An eviction notice doesn’t have to be the beginning of homelessness. Rather, with the support of community servants like Abraham and LSNM, the cycle can be broken before it begins.

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Written by: Cherryland

Co-op Energy Talk

As of January 1, 2018, distribution co-op members of Wolverine Power Cooperative, like Cherryland, will have the lowest carbon footprint of any electric utility in the lower peninsula of Michigan. Learn more about how we got there and the challenges we face as we pursue a low-carbon future in this podcast with Zach Anderson, VP of Power Supply at Wolverine.

Download and subscribe to our podcast on Podbean or iTunes.

If you are hearing or visually impaired and would like a transcript of this podcast episode, please contact us.

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Written by: Cherryland

Chris and Jim operate a drone

After Hurricane Harvey, Texas cooperatives were faced with the challenge of restoring power to areas that were plagued by flooding. Some took to boats while others took to all-terrain vehicles to cross the flooded areas. For a few utilities, taking to the sky was the best way to get the power back on.

Drones are no longer a birthday present for a teenager with a knack for technology. Drones are being used by major retailers, news organizations, the military, scientists, and more.

Electric utilities like Cherryland see drone technology as another tool in the reliability tool chest. Drones offer electric utilities new ways to improve outage response as well as infrastructure and 04right-of-way (ROW) maintenance.

According to Chris Vermeulen, Cherryland engineer and licensed commercial drone pilot, the benefit to having a drone available in the case of a major outage event like Hurricane Harvey is simple: “It allows you to have a look at what you’re dealing with.”

“By determining through drone video and pictures the severity of an outage, a co-op’s outage response can be more efficient,” says Vermeulen. “Co-ops can determine how many lineworkers and what kind of equipment they need before dispatching crews.”

Where drone implementation gets interesting is the potential to prevent outages before they occur using the latest in imaging technology.

A couple of the same Texas co-ops that used drones in response to Hurricane Harvey have also deployed drones to identify areas of their infrastructure and ROWs that need attention before an outage occurs.

These drones are affixed with Light Detection and Ranging, or LiDAR, scanners—an imaging technology used to create 3D models of electric infrastructure.

“After producing the initial 3D model, you update this model down the road and compare it against the previous scan,” explained Vermeulen. “That allows you to figure out whether trees need to be removed and if equipment needs to be repaired to prevent an outage.”

Cherryland also sees the potential of improving reliability by using drones. While Vermeulen and his coworkers study drone response procedures like those in Texas, Cherryland’s drone is being used to educate and train lineworkers. “Particularly for new lineworkers, it’s nice that we can get them familiar with our lines and equipment with drone pictures and video before they go up in a bucket,” said Vermeulen.

Drone technology has opened doors to how electric utilities think about outage response and infrastructure and ROW maintenance. Instead of sending a line crew to find damaged equipment or a tree crew to scan the lines for fallen trees, a utility can take to the skies and give their crews better information before they take to the field.

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