Rising from the ashes: What becomes of the Smith Clinic apartment residents in the wake of last Friday's devastating fire?
PITTSBURG, Kan. — It's been a week since the apartments in the Smith Clinic building were burnt to a crisp, displacing the 16 residents of the building and begging the question: what comes next?
Amy Dillow, a former resident of the apartments, has spent the last week looking for a new place to live while staying with some of her friends who live in town.
“I took like a week off of work basically and I worked very, very hard to find an apartment,” she said, “and I did, and I am moving in April 1.”
When looking back on the fire, Dillow says it didn’t feel real at the time.
“I didn’t think it was real at first,” she said. “And afterwards when they told me I couldn’t go up to my house I knew I didn’t have a home anymore.”
Dillow said her place at Smith Clinic was her first apartment she had by herself, and she basically lost everything.
“I basically lost all of my belongings,” she said, “except for two, no three, sentimental things and some dishes. I got out the things that meant the most to me.”
While Dillow has been lucky to find a place to live so quickly, she said it wasn’t easy because Pittsburg doesn’t have a lot of apartments available right now and she wished the people at the city had helped the residents a little more.
“There’s not a lot of places in Pittsburg that have a lot of apartments open right now,” she said. “Because we’re a giant college town and all of the college kids are in town still, and people who just lost their house, they’re like ‘well you can just stay at a hotel,’ but a hotel costs money every single night and some of them don’t have friends or family here to help them through it.”
While city officials have not been heavily involved in helping the residents after the fire, the local chapter of the Red Cross and the Salvation Army have both offered assistance to the residents.
“We were able to get in and immediately provide food and water,” said Lt. Mylie Hadden, the corps officer at the Salvation Army in Pittsburg, “and then we gave them Walmart gift cards and vouchers to our thrift store.”
Hadden said that while it was a sad situation, the Salvation Army was more than willing to help.
“We’re here in that emergency disaster, that’s what we do, to help people with their immediate needs,” she said, “and show them any compassion we can.”
Hadden added that the Red Cross was the group primarily helping the victims with their housing issues.
Earlier this week, at the Pittsburg City Commission meeting, members of the commission and city employees expressed their gratitude to the firefighters and the organizations like the Red Cross and Salvation Army that helped.
“At the end of the day we were over there talking to the people who lost their possessions and their homes, and the Salvation Army was there,” City Manager Daron Hall said. “The Salvation Army was there after everyone was gone and was doing the hard work.”
Jordan Meier is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org