Rogers Park residents displaced by fire scrambling to find somewhere to stay

CHICAGO (WLS) -- More than 30 people were displaced by a fire in Rogers Park last week, and now they have nowhere to go and just hours to get their belongings.

Most residents fled the building fire with nothing but the clothes on their back, and many of them were receiving some sort of housing assistance.

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"I bought an $11 pair of jeans, otherwise this is what I got out with last Thursday," said Ralph Ullrich, who was displaced by the fire. "I'm on Social Security and disability."

Ullrich and his next door neighbor Mandy White have been sharing a motel room, paid for by a $500 stipend the Red Cross gave them. That runs out Wednesday, and while they have nowhere to go they are also desperate to get back to their units to retrieve their belongings.

After waiting anxiously for days, they received a text message Monday from the building owner outlining one-hour time frames for residents to come get their things.

"I have no way to pay for a U-Haul truck or storage unit, and even if I did, what can you get out in one hour?" White said. "I'm not in good health. I have blood clots in my legs. I can't even move this stuff. I don't know what I'm supposed to do."

Owner David Kamish told ABC7 that because the units have been turned off and the building heavily damaged they, along with the insurance company, had to come up with a safe way to let people in. And while no one is getting kicked out if they need more time, the removal must be complete by Wednesday.

"It's devastating, it's devastating. But we want people to be able to go in there safely," Kamish said. "We have to create some sort of structure. So we have to have a schedule, and if people go over the time allotment they will certainly be able to stay and get their stuff out in the time that they need."

Regardless, it is a traumatic situation for everyone involved. Most of the now-displaced residents were receiving some type of housing assistance. White was previously homeless.

"When I moved into this apartment, I was sleeping on the hardwood floor with a blanket. I had one back of clothes and my cat," she said. "Over the last two years I've managed to, piece by piece, turn that into a beautiful home. And it's all being taken away from me now."

Contributing to the delay in letting people back into their homes to retrieve their belongings is that the investigation regarding the fire's origin and cause has been ongoing. The Chicago Fire Department Said they believe it to be suspicious and the police department has yet to make a final determination on arson.
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