On 12/18/2018, one building of the North Park Apartment complex caught fire, causing the evacuation of all residents. American Red Cross was notified by 911 and several volunteers were on the scene, addressing immediate needs of clients’ safety and security while firefighters continued to work on extinguishing the fire. The fire department declared the building unsafe for resident immediate return. American Red Cross provided a team of nearly a dozen volunteers to address the needs of immediate shelter, food, clothing, health and mental health services. 21 cases were opened within 24 hours (a few of the residents had left the scene and Red Cross volunteers had to track them down to offer service) with a total of 37 persons assisted (one did not return multiple attempts to contact). Working closely with the property manager, Red Cross was able to determine who did and did not have alternative choices of lodging (such as electing to stay with relatives), who could secure other apartments within that property, and who had special health needs. Red Cross volunteers set to work providing thousands of dollars in direct financial assistance (final amount for this one event in excess of one quarter’s United Way funding payment) in the form of Client Assistance Cards used to address emergency needs such as food, clothing, lodging, etc. After determining which community partnerships would best serve additional needs (needs beyond the scope of Red Cross mission such as Christmas), referrals were made for the clients to seek the help and included other United Way agencies such as Catholic Charities, Information Helpline 211, and Salvation Army. Referrals were made to other agencies beyond the United Way partnerships such as House of the Carpenter and Housing Authority. Property management was able to assist 17 unit residents back into their stabilized apartments or into new apartments. Others have moved into new apartments or have opted to continue to stay with family members they make up their minds to move. Finally, Red Cross provided financial assistance for burial expenses to the family of the resident who died in the fire. The success of this response event was due to the volunteer training and dedication, the partnerships of various United Way and other community agencies and the funding provided by the United Way.
Specifically, from a client’s point of view, a single mother of 2 left the scene and town to stay with friends before we could issue her assistance. Red Cross sent her card overnight through FedEx so that she would have the assistance. She expressed great thanks and stated that “Me and my babies barely made it to my friends to stay and I had no idea how we were going to get by, and then I received the card that you all had sent us and it was very helpful in purchasing the necessary things that we otherwise would have went without.” This client also decided to not take the transfer unit from North Park because she wanted to move closer to her parents. We issued further assistance so that she could afford the $600 Security Deposit. On top of that, she called when she was trying to get furniture from a Salvation Army outside of our service area and they would not give her the furniture until they received a referral form from the Red Cross. We promptly issued one. This is but one example of the complex service provided to these many clients who lost so much one week before the Christmas holidays.
–American Red Cross