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Flint, MI– The Red Cross has identified dozens of homes that were damaged as a result of an explosion on Flint’s west side on Monday night, but so far only a handful of people have reached out for assistance.
On Nov. 22, around 9:30 p.m. there was an explosion in a house on the 3900 block of Hogarth Avenue. Three homes burned down as a result, but the force of the explosion shook homes all down the street, resulting in broken windows and other structural issues.
Dick Beauchamp, a disaster assessor with The Red Cross, said he identified about 40 homes with structural damage, but by Wednesday afternoon, only six people had contacted the The Red Cross to get connected with resources.
He is urging all residents who were impacted by the explosion, no matter how much damage your home received, to contact them for financial assistance, at 1-800-733-2767.
The Red Cross will validate the callers’ identity, and ensure that they live in a home that was impacted. Then they will connect residents to various organizations providing resources for food, housing, mental health services, and offer financial assistance in the form of a debit card.
“You use it for what you think you need. If you need more clothes, that’s fine. If you don’t need a hotel room because you’re staying with Grandma, that’s fine,” he said.
Beauchamp says that the amount of damage a resident experienced won’t dictate how much financial assistance they get. Even if all a victim has are broken windows, Beauchamp says you should still call.
“With some people, they’re saying, ‘just my window broke out, so, you know, it’s no biggie, I can handle it.’ And I’m telling you, still come to us,” he said.
He also said the damage on the inside of the homes is worse than what it may look like on the outside, because these are older homes built with plaster which doesn’t respond well to structural movement.
Nicole Mills, 36, lives just a couple of houses over from the house that had the explosion and burned down.
From the outside of her house, broken glass lies on the ground from windows that are now boarded up, and a burnt debris hangs in her tree. She couldn’t find her keys on the night of the explosion, but discovered them two days later, hanging on the edge of her trash bin in the front yard.
Structurally, the house looked OK from the outside, aside from the broken windows. But on the inside, walls were cracked and new gaps appeared between the floor and the door. The explosion had shaken and moved the walls.
“It basically expanded the whole house, and shifted it around like a parachute, and set it back down again,” said Mills’s girlfriend, Misti McGrew, who was woken up when the window fell on her bed from the explosion. When she looked out the hole where the window had been, all she could see was fire.
Mills had been on her computer when the force of the explosion blew a nearby window out, covering her in glass shards and dirt from a plant that was knocked over.
Immediately the two rushed to get out, grabbing their two dogs, Bailey and Gunter, and driving to the first place they could think of, Meijer. They got a flat tire on the way from running over debris. A friend of theirs paid for them to stay at a motel for two nights, but now the reality of the situation has set in–they’re going to be homeless for several months.
“I broke down this morning for the first time,” Mills said. “She’s from Florida, so she has no family up here. She just has one sister, and she lives all the way in Florida. I’ve got an uncle and my mom, but my mom doesn’t like dogs, so she’s kind of on the fence about letting us stay there. And they’re telling us they’re not going to let us come back for another nine months.”
During a press conference on Nov. 23, Mayor Sheldon Neeley said that 27 homes had their utilities turned off by Consumers Energy and the water department to prevent further damage. With boarded up windows, no power, and no water, it may be months before people can come back to stay in their homes.
According to a press release from the city on Nov. 24, five families have been relocated to hotels with one in process.
“The damage right now is you’re out of your home,” Beauchamp said. “So you have living expenses. Wherever you’re with a relative or whether you’re eating in a restaurant, or whether you’re staying in a hotel, we can help you with those…you need to get in the loop.”
If you are a resident who was affected by the fires, you can call The Red Cross at 1-800-733-2767, or visit them inside of the St. Pius X Catholic Church located at 3139 Hogarth Ave, although they will not be in there on Thanksgiving day, Nov. 25.
To learn more about how you can receive help if you were impacted, or how you can donate to those impacted, visit this story.