“When the alarms went off, we saw a lot of smoke in the hallway. I had to put a handkerchief over my mouth,” Lillian recalls.
Over a dozen apartments on the third and fourth floors were badly damaged.
“A mess-all my furniture is turned over. My couch , my chairs, the ceilings are all down,” Winn said. “Wires are hanging all through the hallways, all in the apartments. Over on the other side all the walls and everything else are down. It was a real bad fire.”
Lillian is staying with family. Beverly DeJesus isn’t so lucky.
“For me it’s been a terror,” Beverly said.
The Housing Authority has paid for her to stay at a Westfield hotel. She rides her bike over a mile each day to eat lunch at the Housing Authority and has to carry her laundry on her bike.
“All tied up, like a homeless person, I feel like a homeless person,” Beverly said. “I am a homeless person but that’s how I feel. I cry a lot.”
The residents appreciate being given temporary housing, but say with the holidays coming. All they want is to get back home.
“I wish we could get answers from them, at least how far they are coming along or what’s going on, what they have to do, don’t have to do, so we know at least we know something,” Lillian said.
The Housing Authority says that because the buildings were built so many years ago, they also have to get them up to the code. The process has been frustrating for them too.
“I know it’s been 9 weeks. The tenants are frustrated. So is the Housing Authority,” Executive Director Daniel Kelly said. “I mean, it’s costing us money. You know, we are trying to make sure everyone gets shelter, which everyone does.”
A number of structural engineers are examining the apartments. About eight of the apartments should be ready by the first of the year. Other ones, Kelly says, likely won’t be ready for several months.