Nonprofit agencies help Woodcliff fire victims

COLUMBUS, Ga. – More than a dozen families will be without a permanent roof over their heads this Thanksgiving after a weekend fire at Woodcliff Apartments.  Nonprofit agencies met with fire victims for a community resource meeting Tuesday afternoon.

13 families and a total of about 30 people came to the community resource meeting at St. Mary’s Road United Methodist Church.  They filled out a needs assessment so agencies helping with the recovery process know where to focus their efforts.

Steven Harris lived in Woodcliff Apartments for almost four years.

“I salvaged a lot of stuff thank God.  Other people weren’t as fortunate as I was,” Harris said.

He was outside when the fire started Sunday.

“I seen it when the smoke was starting come up from the back and ran around the back to see what it was and I seen the ground on fire and ran up to the fire department to get the fire department to come down,” Harris described.

Susan Cooper with the Urban League says this apartment fire is almost a replay of last December’s MLK Apartment fire.

“With the exception that it happened a couple of days before Christmas and it happened over the Christmas and New Year holiday.  This one is happening over the Thanksgiving and possibly the families will be transitioning through the Christmas holiday,” she said.

Cooper is hoping to have the families placed in permanent housing before Christmas.

“This transition is just a little bit easier because we’ve learned a lot from the last year,” Cooper said.

She says the Woodcliff fire displaced about 35 people including Harris who is staying with family for now.

“Everybody is in sorrow.  They’re probably down, but we’re going to try and lift each other up,” Harris said.

Local agencies are working to make sure the affected families have a Thanksgiving meal.

“Oh, things happen, things happen, things happen so it’s just the will of God.  You just take out the old and bring in the new,” Harris said.

Cooper says Tuesday’s meeting was about making sure the families have enough food, clothing, shelter to get them through the Thanksgiving weekend.  Partnering agencies will meet Monday to discuss long-term needs.

Some of the participating agencies there Tuesday include United Way, New Horizons, and the Department of Driver Services.  The public donate clothes and toiletries to the Valley Rescue Mission.

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