Local nonprofit helps find housing for victims of Drake Hotel fire

After about 250 people lost their shelter in the Drake Hotel fire, those residents are slowly but surely finding new homes.   

Former Drake Hotel residents Queen Williams and Ron Tolbert quickly realized how serious the situation was on the day of the fire. They got out of the Drake Hotel - and lost what had once been their home.

“At first we thought somebody had to be playing it as a joke, but then it got serious,” Williams said.

“We’ve had a few people breaking down and taking it hard,” Ron Tolbert added. “We just all try to support each other and lift each other up.”

They’ve spent the past three weeks in shelters, most recently at First Covenant Church where the county says 46 people remain. There have been 14 move-outs in the past week, and more people like Ron and Queen are hoping to have housing soon.

“The help we’re getting is really good. They’re definitely doing their thing. A lot of people think it came too slow, but I don’t. It’s basically right on time. It’s not even the 25th yet, it hasn’t been a month yet,” Tolbert said.

Now, the nonprofit Pillsbury United Communities is tasked with distributing $250,000 in Minneapolis Foundation donations and making sure the money is used for housing.

“There’s been a heightened sense of urgency to make sure those individuals find housing while we’re also working concurrently with the families that have been placed in hotels around the metro,” said Adair Mosley, President and CEO of Pillsbury United Communities.

They’re helping everyone, including those at the shelter and families at various metro hotels, who had been staying at the Drake Hotel as an overflow shelter.

“We’re seeing some success. We’re seeing individuals coming to us and saying some are waiting on decisions. We’re making phone calls on behalf of those individuals to convey a sense of urgency with respected agencies providing the housing,” Mosley said.

While it hasn’t been easy, it’s work appreciated by the former Drake Hotel residents.

“As bad as the situation is, with all the love and the help and the support people have been giving, it made it not as bad,” Tolbert said.

Pillsbury United Communities said none of the $250,000 is being used to pay them. The Minneapolis Foundation said so far, $405,000 has been distributed and $580,000 has been donated. They hope to have information about how the rest will be distributed as the week goes on, and tell us they’re committed to distributing the balance of the fund this week.