The effort to find housing for nearly 100 Charlotteans burned out of their apartment complex is running into unexpected obstacles, prompting the American Red Cross to call for a meeting of nonprofits, community groups and houses of faith.
Angela Broome of Charlotte’s Red Cross said the 2 p.m. Thursday meeting at Central United Methodist Church aims to recruit partners for a broader initiative to help families impacted by Monday’s fire, which was intentionally set. The meeting site is 6030 Albemarle Road.
More partners are needed, she said, because the building at the Woodscape apartments that suffered the most damage is condemned, and surrounding buildings are without electricity. That means families can’t move back into any of the 40 units along Farm Bond Lane.
On Wednesday, 79 people – 28 of them children – were still living at the Red Cross shelter set up after the fire at Albemarle Road Middle School.
Many of the families do not speak English, requiring the use of interpreters. Broome hopes that organizations which work with the Hispanic community will be among those attending the meeting.
The Red Cross has pledged not to close the shelter until the last family is housed. That may take awhile, although Red Cross officials did not have a specific time frame in mind.
“It was believed early on that many would be allowed to move back into their apartments, but that is apparently not going to be the case,” said Broome, noting each family has a different set of needs
“Some families lost absolutely everything. Their apartment was completely destroyed. In other cases, the apartments are fine, but it’s just locked and the families just want to go back. One (person) has lived there 20 years.”
Charlotte’s affordable housing shortage and rising rents are viewed as adding to the challenge, officials said. The tenants at the Woodscape apartments were paying low rents compared to other parts of the city, and many may not be able to easily afford market rates in Charlotte, officials said.
The Red Cross intends to forge a plan at the community meeting that will cover everything from food to housing.
The call for community donations has already been a success, Broome added. Mecklenburg Ministries has launched a campaign to collect clothing, shoes, personal items, baby and toddler supplies. More than 300 bags of such items were dropped off at New Hope Baptist Church at 7821 Idlewild Road, officials said.
Charlotte Fire Department investigators say 130 people in all were made homeless by the early-morning fire. A few people escaped by jumping from third-floor windows and balconies, and at least two families reportedly threw their children and even an infant over the balconies to people standing on the ground below.
For questions about the community meeting, call Broome at 704-347-8230.
Mark Price: @markprice_obs
How to help
To support to the Red Cross assistance effort, donate a tredcross.org/nc or by calling 800-RED-CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999to make a $10 donation.