FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The community is stepping up to help the hundreds of people forced out of the Baldwin Creek Apartments. Both the Red Cross and Stop Child Abuse and Neglect, or SCAN, are assisting.
Dozens of cots lined the gym floor at Holy Cross Lutheran Church and School Friday evening, ready to house up to 120 people forced out of the place they call home.
“This is a very unique incident for us. There was no disaster per say, no fire, no flood, but there are upwards of 300 people who may not have a place to stay,” Red Cross Disaster Program Manager Becki Faunce. “We can provide them with a free, safe space to stay for a few days while they to figure out where they’re going to be going next.”
Only one person stayed at the shelter Thursday night. Belinda McGee just moved into the apartments in February. She said she planned to stay at the shelter as long as she could.
“Life goes on and it’s a learning experience and I guess it’s just one of life’s things. I’m ready to go home now, but unfortunately it’s not ready to go home so I have to go when they say it’s time go,” McGee said.
Red Cross officials expect that number to grow significantly Friday night and throughout the weekend.
“People are very confused. People are very angry. People don’t know where they’re going to go and there are all these emotions that they’re bringing into the shelter. So, we try to be a calming presence for them and open these doors up just like it’s their temporary home,” Faunce said. “As part of our humanitarian mission, we wanted to step up and make sure they had a place to go for a few nights.”
There are dozens of volunteers from across the region assisting at the shelter.
“A lot of work goes in when there’s actually the need for the shelter. We have someone here 24/7 when a shelter is open. Then, we also have volunteers who have taken a lot of training and have expertise in how to properly run a shelter and provide a safe and welcoming space for their clients,” Faunce said.
The Red Cross said a lot of the people are staying with other family and friends. SCAN is also helping around 40 families.
“We had clients that were living in this complex that started to call us yesterday morning, and of course, having children have safe homes is part of making sure that they aren’t neglected,” SCAN Executive Director Rachel Tobin-Smith.
SCAN provided hotel vouchers ranging from one to three nights, depending on the families’ specific needs.
“Many of them are overwhelmed. It was the short notice. I think there were a few parents that were a little frantic. Whenever there is a crisis, everybody needs assistance with problem-solving skills. It is always helpful and our case managers are experts at that,” Tobin-Smith said. “Many of them last night were very grateful and a night gave them a chance to think so when our case managers contacted them this morning, it was a little easier to process and ask what resources do you have and what’s the best thing.”
Baldwin Creek said it won’t reimburse residents if they pay for hotels with their own money since the Red Cross is providing a free shelter. The Red Cross also wants to remind people they will need to provide proof that they live in one of the four affected apartment buildings. Since timeline of when the apartments will reopen continues to get pushed back, the Red Cross plans to keep the shelter open for up to a week.
“The great thing about an incident like this is that we can really see where our community is strong and what organizations can lead the charge,” Faunce said.