Former Drake Hotel residents frustrated with slow release of funds after fire

A fire broke out at the Francis Drake Hotel apartment building in downtown Minneapolis Wednesday morning. (FOX 9)

On Christmas Day, a fire forced 250 residents out of the Drake Hotel in Minneapolis. Some of those residents were families facing homelessness who had been placed in the hotel, which acted as an overflow facility. After the fire, those families had no place to go.

Now, more than a week after the fire, some families have been moved from an emergency shelter to a temporary spot at a hotel in Bloomington.

Among the people who escaped the fire were Victoria Jones and her family. Now, as the hotel is being torn down, Jones says she is upset that families haven't had access to the hundreds of thousands of dollars collected by the Minneapolis Foundation to help survivors get back on their feet.

"Every night is a different story," she explained. "Last night was hectic for us because the kids were crying. They don’t know what to expect the next day."

Jones says she doesn’t know what to expect when it comes to assistance in replacing her belongings and to find a new place to call home.

"They’re giving us gift cards, telling us how we should spend our funds," said Jones. "With the gift cards that you’re giving us, we could have taken that and paid the rent and down payment on houses that we have now."

Friday, the Red Cross and other community partners opened a multi-agency resource center for those impacted by the Drake fire. There, caseworkers, community resources, and donated goods are made available to those in need. Officials say the caseworkers will help guide families through paperwork to access funds for making down payments and paying rent on a new home.

However, some residents feel their voices are falling on deaf ears that their immediate needs aren’t being met when it comes to recovering.

"You have a variety of people with a variety of different experiences living in this building, so to lump any of this neglectful and harmful," said Nicole Miller of the Folwell Neighborhood Association.

While residents came from a variety of backgrounds, they shared one thing: A home.

"The Drake was our home," said Jones. "Even for the single individuals. Now, we don’t have a home and all we're asking is for the Minneapolis Foundation is to release the funds so that we can go find housing, whether it’s in Minneapolis, Minnesota or another state."

In a statement, Hennepin County responded by writing: "The process of responding to a crisis is long and complicated. Each responding partner has a distinct role. Hennepin County’s role is to provide direct supports for each family or individual’s immediate needs. We work hand-in-hand with people to determine needs and to support them through the process of working toward a long-term shelter option."

On Thursday, the Minneapolis Foundation said so far they have released $146,000 of the nearly $500,000 raised to help pay for initial costs following the fire. They said they plan to release another $250,000 to community partners over the next week to assist families in getting new housing.