WEST HUMBOLDT PARK — A fire ripped destroyed a West Side homeless shelter’s roof Wednesday evening, causing no injuries but gutting the organization’s offices.
Just before 8 p.m., firefighters were notified of a roof fire at The Boulevard, 3456 W. Franklin Blvd., Fire Department spokesman Larry Merritt said. Residents of the homeless shelter and staffers evacuated as firefighters battled the blaze.
The fire spared the residential side of the building, where 40 people experiencing homelessness live. But it destroyed the east side of the building, which houses the shelter’s administrative offices, said Laura Reilly, the organization’s chief development officer.
Merritt couldn’t yet provide the cause of the fire, saying only that it started on the roof.
No one was injured in the fire, but it was “extremely traumatizing” for residents of the shelter, Reilly said.
“They’re experiencing homelessness — that is a trauma in and of itself,” she said. “This past year, with the pandemic, that’s [added] another layer of trauma on top of that.”
In addition to housing, The Boulevard provides workforce development, medical respite care and behavioral services to its residents, “a full range of resources for holistic human healing,” according to its website. The organization has called the Franklin Boulevard building home since its founding in 1994, Reilly said.
Before the fire, organization leaders were in the final stages of renovating the administrative side of the building, which would’ve allowed them to expand their on-site medical clinic on the second floor. Now, they have to start over, which will be financially difficult, given the social services organization is funded by donations and grants from the government and foundations.
Despite this, Reilly said the organization is determined to rebuild.
Neighbors looking to help can donate to the organization online. Organization leaders will release more information via social media and an email newsletter in the coming days.
“Our organization has been through a lot over the years, just as people we serve have been through a lot in their lives, experiencing homelessness,” Reilly said. “I do know that every staff person is extremely dedicated to the mission of the organization, and we are all committed to seeing this facility get rebuilt and hopefully we can build it swiftly.”
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