Community members affected by a four-alarm fire at Valencia Street and Duboce Avenue earlier this month that displaced dozens of people discussed relief efforts at a neighborhood meeting Thursday.
On May 6, at about 10 a.m., the blaze tore through two multi-unit apartment buildings, displacing 30 adults and seven children and impacting local businesses such as Fred’s Liquor and Delicatessen, a business at 200 Valencia St. that was destroyed by the fire.
The liquor store’s owner, Fuad Ateyeh, was among those who gathered at the San Francisco Friends School Thursday night for a meeting that sought to provide updates to those affected and plan for continued relief efforts.
Some of the residents have been fortunate enough to take shelter with friends or family.
One resident said that she and her roommates are grateful that they have been lodging in a donated hotel room in Palo Alto, even if the daily commute to San Francisco has added to the financial strain of finding replacement housing.
But with few leads on available units within the vicinity of their former apartment, the housing search, she said, is fiercely competitive.
“We’re completely focused on housing,” she said. “It’s just been very difficult given housing prices and competition.”
For others who were unable to make temporary housing arrangements on their own, the American Red Cross and city officials helped to secure intermediate housing on Treasure Island, at least for the time being.
The displaced residents staying at the housing will have to make their own arrangements come Sept. 15, according to Donna Logan, the disaster services chair at the American Red Cross.
“Everybody has at least a safe place at the moment,” Logan said. That intermediate housing is crucial, she said, because it helps those displaced conserve their energy to focus on finding longer-term housing.
“Unfortunately, this is just a bridge,” Logan said.
According to those at the meeting, the generosity and concern of neighbors has immensely helped those affected to begin picking up the pieces as they continue coping with their losses.
Guybe Slangen, the director of community engagement at the San Francisco Friends School who led Thursday’s meeting, said that a clothing and donation drive held earlier this month demonstrated the outpouring of support from neighbors.
“We had 20 extra-large U-Haul boxes stuffed with donations that filled the front hall,” with the clothing and sundry donations spilling over into the school’s patio space, Slangen said.
Residents and the surrounding community are also in the early stages of organizing a fundraising drive that hopes to provide continued support to affected neighbors.
Ateyeh, who also owns the corner building on Duboce Avenue destroyed by the fire, said he is “thankful for the support I’ve received from the neighbors,” even as the situation continues to deteriorate, with thieves stealing what little could be salvaged from his totaled business.
The neighbors and school have plans to hold another community meeting at the end of June.