Some families displaced by Drake Hotel fire will be moved to hotel

Families will remain in the shelter for the next couple of days before being moved to a new location.

Around 30 families who were displaced after a fire tore through Minneapolis' Drake Hotel on Christmas morning will be moved from an emergency shelter to a hotel in Bloomington as city officials work to find permanent housing for everyone.

The Drake Hotel served as a shelter for families experiencing homelessness. Wednesday's fire has now left them with no other place to go.

According to city officials, 250 people - including 100 children - were displaced by the fire. As of Thursday, around 111 people were staying in an emergency shelter. Others were able to find alternative housing, officials said.

The Human Services Office with Hennepin County tells us families who were receiving vouchers through the county to live at the hotel will be moved to a Bloomington Hotel with kitchens and showers -- something they haven’t had at the church shelter.

And other residents of the hotel not receiving county vouchers will stay one more night at Bethlehem Baptist and then will be moved to First Covenant Church on Saturday, a location that already runs a nightly shelter, and has shower and laundry facilities.

Officials said about 30 families will head to the hotels and the rest will be at the longer-term shelter.

"At least for the next few weeks we will be a shelter and a place of refuge where we will provide hospitality support care... of course meals, showers, laundry - what you need for 24/7 life," said Senior Pastor Dan Collison of First Covenant Church of Minneapolis.

No one can say exactly how long people will be staying at these two locations. County officials say they will be working with individuals on the cases, so it could be for several days or weeks.

Friday, those who were still stuck sleeping on cots in the shelter said tensions were high, as the hotel's former residents came to grips with losing everything while sleeping on cots in the church.

(FOX 9)

"We lost everything in there," said Jamal Jones. "Don’t have my phone. We just got her birth certificate, Social Security cards, all of it gone."

Jones has no idea what the future looks like for him and his 5-week-old daughter after the devastating fire.

"It’s like what are we supposed to do?" he questioned. "I got a little baby here. We barely have formula, diapers. Nothing. What are we going to do? You have no resources? None."

For now, Jones has joined dozens of now-former Drake tenants in the temporary shelter the Red Cross is operating, just blocks away at Bethlehem Baptist Church.

But with no showers and very little privacy, those without emergency housing options are frustrated.

"Tensions already high," Sonia Thompson said. "It's ridiculous... No showers. They’re trying to get us to a place with showers. But it’s just like, why aren’t things moving faster? We’re getting really antsy."

Adding to the woes at Bethlehem Baptist Friday, in the middle of the free lunch service, the fire alarms went off, sending already traumatized tenants out into the cold. Some with no winter gear rushed their young children into cars to keep warm while firefighters made sure there was no danger.

"It’s traumatizing to these children," said Thompson. "One child is having an asthma attack as we speak because it’s so traumatizing for these children. Damn us, excuse my language. It’s about the kids."

Faith leaders work to find space for former Drake residents

"The volunteers have put a welcome sign on for the family and then you can see it’s set up," explained Lee Blons. "The congregation knows how many people, children in a family."

Blons is the president and CEO of the Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative. Friday, he showed up a room set up for an otherwise homeless family in the basement of Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Minneapolis.

"It’s what people need, and they need it tonight," he said.

Beacon’s shelter program works with homeless families, pairing them with dozens of local congregations of all faiths. In this situation, Bethlehem has converted several Sunday school classrooms so families in desperate needs don’t have to stay out in the cold.

"Our congregation’s name is Bethlehem and part of the Christmas story is Jesus not finding a home," said Pastor Ben Cieslik. "Jesus being a refugee and on the run. And for us to be able to provide a home and work for a permanent solution so all people can have a home I feel That’s God calling us to be about."

Pastor Cieslik expects more than 100 volunteers to help four families over a two-week period. The devastating Christmas fire at the Drake Hotel has exposed the community’s desperate need for stable housing.

Friday, Beacon is looking for more congregations to step up as they seek a more permanent solution for those who have nothing.

"It’s really shocking sometimes for people who have a safe home to understand how many families scramble month-to-month, week-to-week, to put a roof over their heads and their children."