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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on November 5th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 35 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 35

Arson victims vacate Minami Shelter

BY CAMILLIA LANHAM

On Nov. 1, the city of Santa Maria closed the Minami Community Center sheltering operation that had opened to help residents displaced by the Oct. 12 Town Center Inn fire—but the closure only came after leaders came up with a contingency plan for those residents who didn’t have anywhere else to go.

Although a little more than 30 of the people who were temporarily housed in the Minami Center were able to return to the Town Center Inn, nine residents were left without a home. Those nine people were relocated to the Newlove Community Center, which is being operated as a warming center by the Good Samaritan Shelter at 1619 S. Thornburg St. in Santa Maria. The center is open during the evening, starting at 5 p.m. and closing at 8 a.m.

Residents with the ability to come up with a security deposit and their first month’s rent were able to return to the inn’s north tower, which was spared significant fire damage and received repairs in the three weeks following the fire. The south tower was heavily damaged, and repairs will most likely take a year or more at a cost of more than $1 million, said Mark van de Kamp, a city spokesperson.

He added that the south wing was being cleaned up to give people an opportunity to try to recover some of their belongings. Once that’s done, demolition of the interior will begin.

Amos Andrews was arrested as a suspect involved with the fire. He’s been charged with arson and hasn’t yet entered a plea.

The city, the Red Cross, and Good Samaritan Shelter combined efforts to get everyone transitioned either to the warming center or their new apartments.

“The transition went extremely smooth,” said Gisele Gomez, Red Cross regional communications manager.

Case workers and mental help support workers are on hand at Newlove to help the residents who remain homeless transition to alternative housing.

“We’re really trying to find them long-term sustainable housing,” Gomez said.

She added that people who want to help can donate to the Red Cross by visiting redcross.org/santabarbara or calling 1-800-RED CROSS. Donations can also be made at local Red Cross chapters.