SUFFOLK, Va. — After a fire at Suffolk Tower on July 13, everyone who lived in that building is still without a permanent place to stay.
On Friday, the city agreed to pay for hotel rooms for those people until at least Tuesday, after the landlord decided to stop paying.
Jackie Edgehill rushed to Suffolk Tower Friday morning after she said management sent a schedule with two-hour time slots to get items from the apartments.
“A lot of everything,” Edgehill said. “Just trying to grab as much in a short period of time, it’s not easy to do.”
Resident Annette Brown has a time slot this weekend.
“We have a lot of stuff, especially my fiancé does,” Brown said. “How can we in two hours?”
Brown said her landlord paid for residents to stay in hotels after the fire, but that ended Friday. Now, city officials are temporarily picking up the tab.
“Pay for up to Tuesday and that is it,” Brown said. “And then we don’t know what else is going to happen.”
City spokesperson Diana Klink said Suffolk Department of Social Services and the city sheltering liaison secured 36 hotel rooms for 44 tenants.
They are working with community leaders on a long-term plan.
“Reach out to our fellow citizens and say hey, we care about you, we know that something tragic happened and we want you to know that people care,” said First Baptist Church Pastor David Edgell.
Edgell said church groups are trying to take some burden off tenants by starting a meal train.
“Assigning dates to those churches, that are now beginning to sign up, we are getting a great response from that,” Edgell said.
So, what’s the timeline for building repairs?
13News Now got a copy of a letter given to residents Friday from Suffolk Tower Management. Property Manager Tracey Fry wrote: “We are currently unable to provide any information about when the building might be ready for habitation.”
The letter said management is working with an electrical contractor to assess the building.
The letter also lists an office contact if a tenant wants to end their lease.
“It doesn’t look like they are looking for people to move back in,” Edgehill said. “It would probably be more convenient if people moved out.”
Residents wonder if they’ll ever call Suffolk Tower home again.
“All these years we have been devoted residents of Suffolk Tower and they just make it feel like we are the one that was in fault of the fire, not the person who did it,” Brown said.
Community and church leaders are collecting monetary donations, and gift cards for residents.
Those can be dropped off at First Baptist Church in Suffolk. People can also connect with the sheltering liaison at 757-304-2883.