Options limited for homeless | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Options limited for homeless

William Ferchland
Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / South Lake Tahoe Fire Captain Steve Ricioli interviews Debbie Brown after she fled a fire that swept through her mobile home Wednesday night, leaving her homeless.

When the fire started, Debbie Brown grabbed what mattered. She picked up a seven-month-old baby she was watching and a jacket.

Everything else was either damaged by the fire or the water sprayed from the firefighter’s hose.

“All my coats, all my photos, all my heirlooms. Everything was in the back bedroom,” Brown said minutes after her unit at Little Truckee Mobile Home Park was damaged by a Wednesday night fire. “I just thank God I was able to get out.”

Few things are as debilitating to life like a fire. And when the only remnants are the acrid smell of smoke and charred belongs, nothing can be as frightening as starting from scratch.

Brown, a welfare recipient, received hugs from her neighbors while firefighters quashed the flames, which began at the water heater.

Thinking of where to turn next, friend Tammara Roach advised Brown to leave the area.

“Where are we going to bounce to?” Brown asked. “I have nowhere to go.”

In the same predicament

Mary Davenport, 60, discovered herself homeless after a fire damaged her apartment behind the Rockwater Bar and Grill on Nov. 30.

Around 1:30 a.m., Davenport woke to the sound of her dog barking. Fire spat through the electrical outlet, she said. Investigators determined the blaze was caused by an “unspecified short circuit.”

The manager, Kimberly White, suspected the fire was caused by cigarettes in a trash can near an outlet and is waiting for a report from an electrician.

Whatever the cause, Davenport got her son, Edward, and Rottweiler Precious out of the apartment. Now Davenport, who receives disability benefits because of nerve damage to her right arm, is searching for a cheap roof over her head.

With her son in the hospital and few lodging options, Davenport said she is running out of hope.

“Hell would be the best way to describe it,” she said. “Going around in circles, trying to figure out what to do or can do, just to find a place to live other than a motel.”

Unfortunately, South Lake Tahoe has limited services for the homeless. The closest shelter is in Carson City. Affordable housing in the area is nonexistent.

The South Lake Tahoe unit of the Red Cross is the first contact for immediate help. Vouchers can be given for food at restaurants, goods at Kmart and rooms at motels, said volunteer Sharon Marlowe.

Long-term help is tougher to find.

“We’re such a popular destination for everybody, not just the tourist who has the dollars to spend in Tahoe,” said Paula Lambdin, program coordinator of community services with the department of human services in El Dorado County.

Limited options

Lambdin had a few ideas for low-income people suddenly out of a home. For the aging, the South Lake Tahoe Senior Center offers hot meals for a low price. Sierra Community Church provides free lunches on Wednesdays. On Wednesday mornings from 9 to 10, the Tahoe Opportunity Project on Third Street gives coffee and muffins to a homeless support group.

In addition, Bread and Broth supplies hot meals every Monday evening from 4 to 6 at the parish hall of St. Theresa Catholic Church.

“It’s really tough anyway in California because the need definitely exceeds the resources available,” Lambdin said.

Davenport said she received a $20 voucher from St. Theresa Catholic Church to The Attic, a thrift store. She solicited help from the community.

“If, you know, they can help in any way it would be appreciated,” she said.

During the four months she lived at Little Truckee Mobile Home Park, Brown said she complained to manager Ken Rumble about the water heater.

Rumble denied the accusation.

“As soon as they let me know of a problem, or think there’s a problem, then I get on it, take care of it,” he said.

Some books, paperwork and clothes were salvaged from Brown’s unit.

“Right before Christmas, that’s what’s so terrible about this,” said neighbor Nancy Babka.

A detailed list of aid in South Lake Tahoe is available by calling (530) 573-3200.

– E-mail William Ferchland at wferchland@tahoedailytribune.com

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