About two dozen of Spokane’s most vulnerable residents are in urgent need of the community’s help after being made homeless by a suspected arson fire on Saturday.
In a city lacking in low-income housing, the fire at the 41-unit Hifumi En Apartments, 926 E. Eighth Ave., has created yet another crisis for Spokane social services, particularly the building’s owner and manager, Northeast Washington Housing Solutions.
About 15 of the housing authority’s tenants have been taken in temporarily by family or friends, three remain hospitalized because of injuries sustained in the fire, and one has been moved to a nursing home.
But 22 tenants who have been staying in a Post Falls motel at a cost of about $1,400 a day must find other accommodations today because their rooms are reserved for other guests, said Steve Cervantes, director of the housing authority.
“In the past, we’ve been a help. This time we are asking for help,” Cervantes told a Thursday afternoon meeting of city, county and nongovernmental social service agencies.
Rent for the residents, who are low-income, elderly or disabled, is subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Those subsidies ended when the tenants were forced to leave their apartments. It will be six to 12 weeks before those units are habitable.
The current housing emergency comes three years after about 200 people were displaced by the closure of three downtown apartment buildings and two years after the closure of a Hillyard apartment building left about 50 people looking for housing.
In each instance, temporary accommodations were found for displaced residents until permanent housing became available.
This weekend, the Lilac Parade has filled Spokane-area motels and hotels. The housing authority said it cannot place tenants in private residences because of liability concerns.
Spokane Human Services Director Jerrie Allard said the city likely will not know until Monday whether a $142,500 HUD emergency housing grant can be used to house people displaced by fire.
Meanwhile, no arrests have been made in the early-Saturday blaze, the third suspicious fire at the Hifumi En in the past six months, according to the Spokane Fire Department.