Rena Young hasn’t gotten a lot of sleep since moving from her bed at home at Joseph Floyd Manor to a cot on the floor of a shelter in West Ashley.
“It’s been a little rough,” she said Wednesday, her service dog by her side.
Young is one of 156 people who live in the low-rent apartments for the elderly and disabled on Mount Pleasant Street. One of the units caught fire Monday night, and the building was deemed temporarily uninhabitable by a Charleston building official because of water damage.
By Thursday afternoon, residents were beginning to return home.
After the fire, the American Red Cross jumped in and opened a shelter at Grace on the Ashley Baptist Church on Bees Ferry Road. About 65 of the displaced stayed there.
“The help has been great,” Young said. “People here would have been on the streets.”
Cots covered in maroon blankets and fairly low to the ground were squeezed side by side Wednesday in one large room at the shelter. Residents sat on the edge of their bunks for dinner and mingled with one another as they ate. Some seemed content, others were eager to get back home to their daily routines.
Louise Welch Williams, regional CEO and executive director of the Red Cross, said housing so many people for an undetermined amount of time was no easy feat but a true teamwork scenario. In three days, the nonprofit served residents more than 1,800 meals and snacks, replaced medications and provided more than 100 comfort kits, medical and mental health services.
The organization got help from the church where the shelter is located, the local food bank, Meals on Wheels, the Charleston County Housing Authority, and the city police and fire departments. And the Navy sent in sailors to lend a hand at the shelter.
Williams said displaced residents were able to settle in, despite the hardships of sleeping on the cots and dealing with the trauma of what happened.
“We all have a time in our lives when we need a hand up and this is one of those times for them,” she said.
The shelter was run by more than 40 Red Cross staff and volunteers, and at least 13 sailors pitched in. Their efforts to keep everyone in good spirits and comfortable didn’t go unnoticed by the displaced residents.
“The Red Cross is really nice and they are taking care of people who don’t have anything,” said Robert Banks, who has lived at Joseph Floyd Manor for about two years.
Banks was ready to go home but thankful for the help he’d been receiving.
Charleston Fire Department spokesman Ryan Kunitzer said Wednesday that the cause of the apartment fire remained under investigation. He said it was a sprinkler head that had caused water damage to other parts of the building.
Williams said it’s been a busy year for the Red Cross. The shelter is only one example of how the organization helps people in a crisis. On Tuesday night alone, volunteers responded to 18 fires across the state and assisted 58 people.
She said the best way for people to help displaced residents and others the organization serves is to either volunteer time or make a financial donation. Information about how to do both can be found at redcross.org/local/sc.
Reach Melissa Boughton at 843-937-5594 or at Twitter.com/mboughtonPC.