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Austin, Garfield Park, North Lawndale

West Side Woman Needs Help Rebuilding Her Life After Losing Everything In Fire

Latonia Matthews escaped the early morning fire at her Homan Square apartment with only the clothes she was wearing.

A fire in the Homan Square neighborhood of Lawndale destroyed several apartments.
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NORTH LAWNDALE — A West Side woman needs help rebuilding her life after losing her home and all of her belongings in a fire earlier this month.

Latonia Matthews had lived at the apartment at 3627 W. Lexington St. for more than 10 years. The building had previously belonged to her aunt before it was sold to a new landlord, so Matthews has memories of the place dating back to her childhood, she said.

But memories are now all that’s left of her home. Matthews rushed out of her apartment before dawn to escape the Jan. 16 fire with nothing but the clothes on her back.

Her sister launched a GoFundMe to help Matthews get back on her feet. Donations will help Matthews pay for food, clothes and housing costs to “rebuild my life with the basic necessities and start creating more memories again,” she said. 

“Everybody was running out of the building just screaming for each other. It went on for some hours,” Matthews said. “If it wasn’t for my neighbors who put a coat on me and some boots on my feet, I wouldn’t have had anything.”

Matthews fled the building early in the morning around 5 a.m., she said. The fire wasn’t completely put out until shortly before 9 a.m., the Chicago Fire Department reported. A woman in her 60s was taken to the hospital in stable condition, along with two children who were taken to Stroger Hospital for evaluation, fire officials said.

She is thankful to have escaped unharmed, but the loss of all her things, many of them irreplaceable, is devastating, Matthews said. Her photographs of her family and of her experiences doing humanitarian work in Haiti are among the toughest to have lost, she said.

“I had a very large portrait of my aunt who passed away. That portrait was very important to me,” Matthews said.

Matthews initially started living at the apartment when she was between homes, and her aunt offered to have her stay in her building. Over her 10 years of living there, she had opened her home to other members of her family whenever they needed a place to land for a while, Matthews said.

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