July 12, 2013 By Warren Slocum
When a six-alarm fire broke out in Redwood City early Sunday morning, the emergency response was fast and thorough. With nearly 100 people left homeless, that response soon transformed into an ongoing support system that gathered resources from multiple sources.
Many of the people who lived at the Hallmark House Apartments receive some form of public assistance and can’t just check the want ads for a new place to live.
And so the county’s Human Service Agency and housing officials jumped to action to ensure no one falls through the cracks. Staff from Supervisor Warren Slocum’s office also offered assistance as Slocum’s district is focused on the area of the fire. For this week, residents were sheltered at the National Guard Armory and provided assistance by the American Red Cross. That is not a permanent solution and many will be provided with motel vouchers until permanent housing is located.
In the meantime, residents were allowed a few minutes to gather their belongings from the fire site and have received assistance from multiple sources. This week, free socks and shoes were lined up near the fire site while residents collected their belongings and the Legal Aid Society offered help with basic issues such as getting their rent deposits back and the remainder of their rent for the month. One of the first items of business after the fire was ensuring that displaced residents could get replacement prescription medication right away. Another matter of importance was finding a way to have mail delivered to displaced residents.
There is support available and, while it is not perfect, there are plenty of people willing to provide assistance. The real task involves continuing that assistance after the cleanup is finished, the town hall meetings are over and the motel vouchers have run their course. The emergency Red Cross shelter at the Armory is closing today and the Client Service Center is moving to the North Fair Oaks Community Center on Monday.
The emergency response was quick, and the secondary social service response was also quick. Slocum said he was impressed with how fast county, nonprofit and Redwood City officials mobilized to offer assistance. But once the flurry of activity settles, the real work really begins and county officials, including Slocum, said they will continue to work on it.
“They still need help,” Slocum said.
The residents may not feel like it, but many are lucky to still be alive and have the assistance they are receiving. It’s a tough road but, as long as that support is there, they won’t be going it alone. It also brings to mind the adage, “there but for the grace of God go I.”
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