Fire victims find relief in burn shelter

The Starkville Fire Department/Starkville Housing Authority Temporary Burn Shelter has housed 15 families in the past year, and will house tenants displaced after last week's fire at Brooksville Garden Apartments. (Photo by Sarah Raines, SDN)
Staff Writer

The small house that sits at 197 Pecan Acres has served as a refuge for many, housing victims of house fires in order to give them a chance to get back on their feet.

In the year since it was established, around 15 families have benefitted from the Starkville Fire Department/Starkville Housing Authority Temporary Burn Shelter. Two more are scheduled to stay there in the upcoming weeks following the fire that erupted at Brooksville Garden Apartments last week.

Chief Charles Yarbrough of the Starkville Fire Department said up to 10 people can stay at the house at one time depending on the circumstances.

"I got the idea to start a shelter from a similar one in Columbus," Yarbrough said. "What we wanted to do was to give people who are displaced by a fire a place to stay for three to seven days."

The building in Pecan Acres was owned by the Starkville Housing Authority but was sitting unused. With the housing authority's permission and the help of a few local businesses that sponsored the project, the SFD remodeled the house, adding two bedrooms, a bathroom, and redoing the entire kitchen.

On top of the shelter providing a place to stay, OSERVS provides food vouchers from local restaurants and the SFD works with both OSERVS and the American Red Cross to try and find apartments for the displaced people.

"We opened up September last year," Yarbrough said. "We could not have done it without the Starkville Housing Authority."

Yarbrough said two tenants will be able to stay at the shelter after a kitchen fire damaged several apartments at Brooksville Garden Apartments last Thursday night. The fire displaced the tenants of eight apartments. The other tenants have been placed in temporary apartments, but two will benefit from the burn shelter for up to a week.

Executive Director of Starkville Housing Authority Amy Bishop said the housing authority mostly maintains the building.

"We offer them assistance with applying for an apartment, here, due to the fact that their home has been destroyed by fire," Bishop said.

Bishop said if those displaced are missing important documents required for the application process — like birth certificates and social security cards — the housing authority will help them to reapply for the documents.

The applicants will go through the same background check and process as any other candidates who apply for housing.

"I think it's just a great thing that Chief Yarbrough came up with," Bishop said. "For anyone that endures a fire, I know it's a traumatic time, so I'm glad that we actually do have a space to accommodate families in the community."