The first thing Christy Brooks noticed when she opened the door to her new home was that there was heat. “It was warm,” she said.
Brooks and her two young daughters, who had lost their home in the Alameda fire last fall, had been living in a donated trailer at Emigrant Lake campgrounds a few miles from Ashland, Oregon.
The trailer had started leaking water and the only heat was from a small space heater. They slept in the same bed at night to keep warm. Ice would form on the kitchen counters it was so cold sometimes.
The leak caused mold to grow on the carpets and walls. In her closet, her clothes were stuck to the wall from the mold and moisture. She also only had a mini-fridge, without a freezer for the three of them.
“It was a nightmare,” she said.
But finally, thanks to help from the Phoenix-Talent School District and the Oregon Department of Human Services Emergency Management Unit, Brooks and her children were moving into a brand-new, fully furnished – and heated – mobile home in Gateway Park in Talent, Oregon.
The city of Talent has recently developed this site into 65 mobile home sites, complete with landscaping and picnic areas as a place for people displaced from the Alameda Fire to live until they can find more permanent housing.
So, when she opened the door to her new home, she said, “I was dumbfounded. I started crying. I didn’t think it was going to be this nice. My kids were ecstatic.” There was even a television and a regular size refrigerator.
Brooks, and daughters Alissa, 6 and Jordan, 12, (almost 13), had originally been living in a fifth wheel trailer Emigrant last fall. They were just coming home from getting some school things for Jordan on September 8 when she saw smoke from the Alameda wildfire near their home. When they got to their home all she could see was just black and orange. Their trailer was engulfed in fire.
“I just grabbed my kids, rushed to the car and left. My oldest was having an asthma attack. I was just trying to get somewhere safe,” she said.
At first, they went to the fairgrounds. Then a friend took her to her house for the night. Then her sister took them to her home in Junction City for a few days.
When Brooks returned to her trailer, she saw that the fire had melted all the piping. The floor and ceiling were collapsing. There was mold everywhere. They had lost everything. But they stayed in the trailer for a week and a half because they had nowhere else to go.
Then, they got help from the Red Cross and stayed in a motel until December. Three days before Christmas, the Talent/Phoenix School District donated a trailer for them to live in. It was the school district who helped again by advocating for them to be able to live at Gateway Park.
Brooks thanks everyone who has helped her family this past year: Rogue Community Health; Rogue Retreat, Phoenix-Talent Schools District and the City of Talent. Besides housing, the Oregon Department of Human Services also helped get the family warm clothing and other essentials.
“We bridge the gaps for the fire survivors. Together, we develop a plan to assist the family to move forward in their recovery. If they are experiencing unmet needs, we assist the family to find and connect with resources in order to fill that need,” Silvia Ceron, ODHS Emergency Management Unit Social Services Emergency Liaison, said.
She also wants people to know that there are still many people who don’t have homes.
“A lot of families are still hurting. I want people to know that many fire survivors are still living in motels, tents, staying with family or friends and they still continue to have housing needs. I hope to see more and more people get into Gateway and have their own place they can now call home.”
There are still more than 900 people statewide affected by various disasters.
Brooks’ goal now is to figure out some health problems so she can get a job using her degree in Early Childhood Education and then to move her family to a permanent home.
But for now, they are safe, warm and have a home.