Sinkhole forces YWCA to close its shelter for women, their families City condemns building temporarily

November 15, 1997|By Craig Timberg | Craig Timberg,SUN STAFF

The Franklin Street sinkhole that erupted into flames last week has sent the women and families at a nearby YWCA shelter scrambling for a place to sleep.

Sixty-three temporary residents counted on the YWCA for food, shelter and stability. But the street collapse and subsequent fire -- which came within a few feet of the building -- forced an immediate evacuation followed by days of disruption.

Eighteen of the former residents have found long-term lodging in other shelters, but YWCA officials say 45 others are bouncing among friends and family members with little means to care for them.

"We made a commitment to shelter them," said YWCA Executive Director Rosalyn Branson. "What we have now are 27 children and 18 adults who have very, very temporary arrangements."

To ease the crunch, the shelter yesterday set up temporary offices in the Upton Child Care Center on Pennsylvania Avenue and arranged for 10 residents to stay at the North Avenue Motel -- at a total cost of $1,000 a day for rooms and food.

Branson said it could be six weeks before the shelter can return to the YWCA building at Franklin Street and Park Avenue.

On Wednesday, city officials temporarily condemned the YWCA building because it is so close to the hole. The building also suffered extensive water damage.

The blast and fire damaged other buildings in the area and forced the evacuation of nearby homes. Construction crews are working around the clock on repairs that could take three weeks.

Rosa Owens, 42, and her two sons were homeless for months -- moving among the homes of friends and family members -- before getting a room in the YWCA shelter a few weeks ago.

With the guarantee of three months of stable lodging, Owens was able to enroll her children in a local school.

But after the street collapse, they missed a week of classes moving from home to home with their belongings in bags.

"It was really home to us," Owens said of the shelter.

For Paulette Crosson, 49, the YWCA shelter was a place to straighten out her life. It was, she said, "a solid spot to stay" -- until the forced evacuation of the building.

Crosson missed several appointments this week as she moved to the home of a friend's mother, then to the Salvation Army shelter. She looks forward to returning to the YWCA as soon as she can.

"It's stability to get yourself together," Crosson said. "Because if you're all over the place, you can't get yourself together."

Pub Date: 11/15/97

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