BELLEFONTE — People left homeless after the Hotel Do De was destroyed by fire last weekend are being housed in a local church, and other organizations are mobilizing to help them move forward.
Trinity United Methodist Church on Howard Street has opened as a shelter for 16 of the 29 displaced people, most of whom are men and eight of whom are veterans.
The others displaced are staying with family or friends, said Romayne Naylor, the emergency services manager of the American Red Cross Centre Communities Chapter.
Faith United Methodist Church donated turkey dinners Friday, a local rental company donated TVs for the residents to watch, and the Faith Centre donated pillows for their cots.
“The outpouring from this community has been phenomenal,” Naylor said Friday, the third day the shelter was running. “It’s been amazing how everybody in the community comes together to help.”
Naylor also said the residents, who have lived together for a while at the Do De, are looking out for one another, too.
Authorities continue to investigate what caused the fire early Sunday morning that was reported by people in the Do De bar who saw smoke. The fire also damaged the Garman Opera House Theatre next door.
Authorities have said everyone in the Hotel Do De got out safely.
At the shelter Friday afternoon, just a few of the residents were around. Most were at work, volunteers said.
Naylor said the residents did not want to speak publicly about what has happened to them.
A 4-year-old girl drew pictures and wrote on a chalkboard.
Volunteers took in donations, such as blankets and food.
Cots lined a wall of the shelter, which is in the bottom floor of the Trinity church’s school building.
The Red Cross arranged for those displaced to stay in the Econo Lodge motel on the Benner Pike on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights. The shelter at the Trinity church opened Wednesday.
People in the shelter met with various county and community organizations on Wednesday and Thursday so staff with the organizations could see what resources and services they would need.
Organizations in the response team include Housing Transitions Inc., Catholic Charities, Centre Volunteers in Medicine, Interfaith Mission and Central Pennsylvania Community Action.
“The residents are working hard to find a new place to live,” said Natalie Corman, the director of the county’s Adult Services Office, which is coordinating the community response. “We’re grateful for the community that has given donations and has continued to want to give to these individuals.”
Some people already have lined up permanent housing, Naylor said, but the biggest need remains for those still in the shelter is an affordable place to live.
Corman said they’d like to know if landlords in Bellefonte have units available.
Some will stay at Centre House, one of the locations of State College-based Housing Transitions Inc., which provides a variety of housing services to people in need, said its executive director, Ron Quinn.
He said some residents want to stay in Bellefonte, close to family or their jobs. He said homeowners in Bellefonte are willing to offer the residents rooms in their houses for the cost of what they paid at the Do De.
The Centre County Office of Veterans Affairs is helping the veterans, two of whom served in World War II, said County Administrator Tim Boyde. The county VA Office is helping them with finding housing and relocation needs.
The Salvation Army gave meal vouchers to the residents, and at the scene of the fire Sunday, they had a station set up for coffee and meals for the firefighters and emergency responders.
“We’re really fortunate to have volunteer firefighters that put their life on the line for the community, and we count it a privilege to serve them,” said Salvation Army Capt. Chuck Niedermyer.
Mike Dawson can be reached at 231-4616. Follow him on Twitter @MikeDawsonCDT