Franciscan Towers Photo
After the Fire: Rebuilding Franciscan Towers

 

It is hard to believe it has been more than three months since the fire on April 5, 2011 seriously damaged the Franciscan Towers, home to 124 people, as well as TNDC’s corporate office and our Tenderloin After-School Program (TASP). The cause has still not been determined.

Fortunately there were only minor injuries. Unfortunately, 124 low-income people were evacuated from their homes without warning. Many residents rushed out with nothing more than the clothes on their back, and they have had severely limited access to their units and belongings since. Many residents of the Franciscan Towers were living their financial lives from week-to-week. Everything they owned fit into their SRO unit – and now much or all of it is gone. For some, this was their first real home after years of homelessness. For these residents, the prospect of facing homelessness again is devastating. As an organization, we are slowly putting the pieces back together. TASP has moved back in to its regular location, and our smoke damaged corporate offices have been repaired.

Within two weeks of the fire, all residents had been relocated from shelters set up by TNDC to spaces with friends, family or in temporary housing in vacant TNDC apartments and those provided by nearby partners. TNDC is bearing the entire cost of fire victims’ temporary housing, and we are well underway to finding them permanent housing while restoring the building so residents can eventually return home.

Simultaneously, our Property Management staff has coordinated the removal, cleaning and storage of all of the belongings in each unit not damaged by the fire. These residents have been given keys to their storage units so they can go through their belongings and determine what they want moved to their new housing. TNDC is working on finding the resources to cover these storage and moving expenses for residents. We will certainly bear a substantial cost that insurance will not reimburse.

Restoring the building will be a formidable challenge. The damage is substantial, and as we plan to perform additional improvements beyond the fire-related repairs, we estimate that we will not be able to move residents back in for at least two years. We are in the process of securing funding for the renovation, and if you stop by the Franciscan Towers, you will see the scaffolding, dumpsters and construction crews excavating the smoked damaged interiors of the SRO units.

The fire has shown us what it means to be a “safety net” organization, and we are working aggressively to restore the Franciscan Towers so that it can once again be home to people so desperately in need of a place to live.

 

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