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Sojourners’ sees months of repairs

By Garrett Cabeza Moscow-Pullman Daily News

Sojourners’ Alliance Executive Director Steve Bonnar said Thursday it will take at least eight months to repair the transitional housing facility on North Van Buren Street, significantly damaged by a fire early Monday morning.

The fire was believed to have been caused by Matthew Rieche, a 34-year-old Sojourners’ resident, who was charged with felony first-degree arson.

Bonnar told Sojourners’ residents and community leaders Thursday at a luncheon at the Best Western Plus University Inn in Moscow that it could be at least a couple of months before Bonnar and Sojourners’ staff could operate in the facility’s offices.

He said it appears Sojourners’ insurance will cover the repair costs, but the insurance coverage may not be enough to cover items, such as computers, that were destroyed in the fire.

“There is hope,” Bonnar said. “Out of any crisis, something good can come about it.”

Bonnar said he has had discussions the past three years with the owner of the Hillcrest Motel on North Main Street about purchasing the motel and housing Sojourners’ residents there.

Monday’s fire intensified the discussions since the idea of Sojourners’ not providing services for nine months is unacceptable, Bonnar said.

“To not provide any more services for anybody for nine months, that’s going to be a big, big hit for this whole region,” Bonnar told the Daily News.

If the purchase is made, Sojourners’ could potentially start housing people at the Hillcrest Motel well before the facility is repaired, Bonnar said.

“My belief is for every problem, there is a solution, and this may actually be a really good solution for us,” he said.

Bonnar said he has applied and is applying for grants from local businesses that would help pay for costs as a result of the fire.

He said there are ongoing discussions about how to replace items the Sojourners’ residents lost in the fire.

Six residents were displaced by the fire and are now staying at the Idaho Inn in Moscow, Bonnar said. None of them were injured.

Tyler Anderson, whose bedroom was a short walk down the hall from the fire, told the Daily News he lost most of his belongings in the fire.

“Thankfully I had enough sense to grab my wallet, phone and keys,” Anderson said.

Luckily, he said, his important paperwork is at a friend’s house.

The clothes he saved from the fire still smell of smoke even after he washed them.

Mack Snider, another resident who was inside when the fire broke out, told the Daily News he lost most of his belongings as well, including clothes, movies and his laptop.

Snider said he evacuated with what he was wearing and his two phones.

Anderson said he did not fear for his life since the door to the living room – where the fire started – was shut and barricaded, and there was an unblocked stairway that led to the front entrance. He said he and other residents’ main concern was waking people up downstairs.

“I’m just grateful I’m alive and everybody else is OK,” Anderson said.

Bonnar said his priority is providing the basic needs to the men who lost almost everything.

Bonnar told the Daily News that Sojourners’ staff is in the process of listing items the organization and residents need on its Facebook page. He said he and his staff are still working on when and where to collect items and where to store them.

Bonnar said he will eventually approach the city for financial help. The city gave Sojourners’ $12,500 last year, Bonnar said.

Moscow Mayor Bill Lambert said the city is open to discussing providing Sojourners’ with financial help.

Sojourners’ women and family facilities are located across the street from the men’s residence and were not damaged by the fire.

Bonnar said the Best Western will provide Sojourners’ residents with a free Christmas dinner.

Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631 or by email to gcabeza@dnews.com.

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