what you can do to help the families left homeless by the paradise manor fire in ypsilanti

As you all know, a fire at the Paradise Manor apartments on Thursday afternoon claimed the lives of three young children and left five families without homes. I’m proud to say that the Ypsilanti community is rallying around these families, trying to help as best it can. Following is a list of the various fundraisers currently underway. (Thanks to Murph for compiling the list.) If you know of other ways people can contribute to the effort, either financially or otherwise, please leave a comment.

Paradise Manor Fire Spaghetti Dinner Benefit at Aubree’s

Aubree’s will be holding a spaghetti dinner benefit this Monday, February 12, from 4pm-8pm. $10 per person donation will go to the Mitchell Family Burial Fund; remaining funds will be distributed to the displaced families. Details can be found here.

Washtenaw County’s Paradise Manor Fire Family Fund

Washtenaw County has set up a trust fund to help the families displaced by the fire. Credit card donations may be made online; checks may be made out to the Paradise Manor Fire Family Fund and sent to: C/O Washtenaw County Treasurer, P.O. Box 8645, Ann Arbor, MI 48107. Further details can be found here.

SOS Community Services – “Boxes of Love”

While it wasn’t started specifically in response to this tragedy, SOS Community Services is holding a “Boxes of Love” event to help area families from now until February 14… From their blog:

To do: Members of the community get a plastic container and fill it with basic needs items such as soap, shampoo, conditioner, clothing, a box of chocolates, baby items, etc. and they are given to families/women we serve in our Housing Crisis Center, Family Shelter and Transitional Housing Program. People decorate the container for Valentine’s and then the boxes are dropped off at SOS. Boxes can be dropped of at our Housing Crisis Center, 114 River Street, Ypsilanti, MI 48198 from Feb 2nd-Feb 14th during the hours of 9am-5pm M-F.

Unfortunately, local families are always finding themselves in need of such assistance. The SOS blog provides ongoing opportunities to help.

One last thing, while we’re on the subject…. I was wondering if anyone could either confirm or deny that the fire started with a portable gas camping stove. This was mentioned to me last night by someone who knows a relative of one of the families effected by the fire, but I haven’t heard it mentioned anywhere else. It’s too late to save the three children who lost their lives, but we might be able to stop this from happening again, if we can understand the underlying causes. Surely, if the reports we’ve been hearing are correct, people need to be reminded not to leave their children unattended while things are cooking on the stove. (All the stories that I’ve read thus far have agreed that the mother left the apartment for “about ten minutes” while something was on the stove.) But I wonder if the problem itself could run a bit deeper than that. Is it possible, for instance, that some families are living in these units without electricity, relying on candles for light and camping stoves to heat their food? If that’s the case, something needs to be done.

update: I’ve just heard from a more trusted source that a camping stove was not involved, so that’s one less thing to worry about.

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  1. Paul Schreiber
    Posted February 10, 2007 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    Ypsilanti Housing Commission public housing is inspected under HUD guidelines. The inspection process is three-fold. First, the YHC makes random inspections. Second, a HUD qualified third party performs inspections on 100% of the units. Finally, a random inspection of approximately 10% of the units by HUD officials determines the physical score for YHC public housing. For all of the inspections, any missing smoke detectors or fire hazards are immediately corrected. A lack of heat is a health and safety issue that should be corrected within 24 hours.

    Additionally, the city has inspected public housing units. Landscaping drainage issues have kept Paradise Manor from getting a certificate of compliance for the whole complex. However, city inspectors had approved the interiors of the units.

    The YHC also conducts annual fire safety sessions for public housing residents. It’s a shame that in spite of all of these measures, three children died in the fire.

  2. Paul Schreiber
    Posted February 10, 2007 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

    Ypsilanti is a wonderful community. Many compassionate people have quickly pulled together to provide funds, food, and clothing for the five families that were victimized by the deadly Paradise Manor fire.

  3. ol' e cross
    Posted February 10, 2007 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

    I’m paternally moved by the reports of the mother having to be restrained from running into certain death to save her kids, as I realize were my house on fire, and my daughter inside, you’d have to tazer me to keep me out.

    The greatest power of these benefits, to me, is that the community is essence saying “we grieve with you, and we don’t accuse you.” I imagine the money raised will be helpful, but won’t comfort her loss as much as her neighbors reaching out in support as opposed striking out in accusation. I like my community.

  4. egpenet
    Posted February 11, 2007 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Seven years after our fire … minor by Paradise standards … my wife and I still cannot sleep through the night. The smell of smoke outside, even from a neighbor’s bar-b-que, makes me nervous. I feel a deep loss every time I hear a fire engine siren, even the EMS wagon.

    I trust that the immediate help to the family and the neighbors will be loving and sufficient … but the tragedy will not end for them … ever.

    Much like the violence on Huron and Arcade, these incidents create various levels of fear, terror, types of PTSD, in us … which we must continue to live with the rest of our lives.

    It is physical. It is to my mind adrenalin poisoning, which protects you (fight/flight) at the time, but eats your insides out, including your heart muscle. And it affects your mind, which is the root of the continual psychological stresses. Some of this theory was inferred to me during a conversation with an Army psychologist who treats our returning Vets. Talk therapy, lots of love, some medications, and family support over the long haul seem to be the best and only treatments at this point.

    I suggest that returning Vets and their families watch the ending of The Deer Hunter and let it wash over you whenever you’re in pain. I have yet to run across an emotionally loaded scene that really does the same thing following a fire. I’ll let you know when I do.

  5. Anonymous
    Posted February 11, 2007 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    The mayor wrote:
    “However, city inspectors had approved the interiors of the units.”

    Did the city issue letters to the Housing Commission approving those units at Paradise Manor for occupancy?

    According the city building department, Paradise Manor did not have a certificate of compliance from the city rental inspection program.

    The city says they no longer issue conditional certificates of compliance. The building is either in compliance or it is not.

    How long have those buildings been out of compliance?

    Did you know the Housing Commission hired an attorney last year during a hastily called closed session to issue an RFQ for “Legal Council regarding the Housing Code Violation Citation.”

    That citation was from the City of Ypsilanti Building Department.

    Why would the Housing Commission need to hire an outside attorney and spend public tax money, to fight another city department over of a building code/inspection violation?

    No one at the Housing Commission would answer that question.

    The city has a long history of going after landlords without certificates of compliance and taking extraordinary steps to prevent those landlords from renting properties until they have a certificate of compliance. Including going to court and pressing for jail time and fines.

    Paradise Manor along with other YHC properties on Madison and First are all owned by the Housing Commission and all do NOT have current Certificates of Compliance.

    That is a violation of city ordinances and according to the City Code, no one can permit a unit to be occupied until they have a Certificate of Compliance.

    The city doesn’t inspect the inside and say it is OK to live and then say the outside is unsafe and you need to fix it.

    How many other violations are currently outstanding against YHC property? No one will say.

    If the Housing Commission wants to come clean on this, then make public for any citizen to view without having to spend thousands of dollars in FOIA requests all of the inspection records, maintenance records, code and inspection violations, and communications back and forth between the City building department, attorney’s office, HUD, and the Housing Commission.

    When I tried asking these questions, the Executive Director of the Housing Commission Walter Norris wont return calls. However Norris was willing to speak to a reporter from the Free Press late Friday afternoon after the YpsiNews.com article came out on the problems at the Housing Commission.

    Last year, I asked the then Housing Commission Chair Paul Schreiber at a coffee meeting late one night at Bombadill’s for copies of letters between the City, HUD, and YHC. Paul said he couldn’t release them.

    Despite the fact those letters were on the YHC website in a publicly visible area and Brian Robb even found one of those letters one day when searching via Google. http://www.east-cross.com/images/Farmer_Letter_to_Miller_5-24-2005.pdf, YHC refuses to release those documents.

    Schreiber even asked Robb how he found the letter since they weren’t on the web. Paul didn’t udnerstand that even though there isn’t a link to the home page, if a subdirectory is unprotected, the search engine crawlers will find those ‘hidden’ documents. Schreiber immediately removed the directory with all the other letters and documents.

    The commission has refused to release the rest of those documents from the secret directory that posted on the Housing Commission website.

    The Mayor (and former Housing Commission Chair) and the Housing Commission should be open and honest with everyone in the community about the inspections of public housing property. This is public dollars being spent on public housing, yet the Housing Commission continues to secretive and hide information from the public.

    Taxpayers of Ypsilanti should ask why the Mayor and the Housing Commission would need to have any secrets when it comes to the inspections of the buildings when it comes to the safety of the buildings the Housing Commission owns and the families that live there.

    – Steve

  6. egpenet
    Posted February 11, 2007 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    What? No “Cheers” following your last note?

    I can understand why …

    This is NOT good.

  7. ol' e cross
    Posted February 11, 2007 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    So glad to see the death of these three kids has come to some greater good. Steve gets to dig at the mayor for something other than YHC hoisting tattered flags.

    Well done.


  8. mark
    Posted February 11, 2007 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    I think I’m goiing to wait for the Fire Chief’s report before I start finger pointing. If it was, as I’ve been told, a portable gas camping stove that caused the fire, I don’t know that it makes sense to lay too much blame at the feet of the YHC. This should, however, be a wake up call to everyone involved in any way with these or other properties. If units aren’t being regularly inspected, as Steve suggests, something needs to be done (regardless of whether or not havign done so would have saved these three children).

  9. Anonymous
    Posted February 19, 2007 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

    Here is an update from the City Manager on Fire Hydrants at the Paradise Manor fire.

    “Hydrant Operations during fire @ 936 W. Michigan Ave: Council received concerns from the public that during the recent fire, hydrants at the complex were inoperable. According to Interim Fire Chief Ichesco We had water from 2 fire hydrants, #1 at the entry of Paradise Manor and, #2 on the corner of First and Michigan Ave. The first engine on the scene used on-board tank water while our second engine is connected to #1 with the assistance of civilians at the scene. Note that by engaging civilians slows the process at no time did we not have water. (Yes this sentence is missing something, but this is how it was written and sent to council.)

    Hydrant #2 supplied water to the mutual aid Tower from Pittsfield due to the limited flow from the Paradise Manor hydrant. Each engine required 1000 gallons per minute and a single hydrant at that location will not supply 2 engines. YCUA had staff on scene as soon as they were informed of the fire flow and remained on scene until we no longer needed them.”

    – Steve

  10. mark
    Posted February 20, 2007 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Steve.

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