On June 8 Doris Charles’ life was forever changed – the life-long St. Rose resident experienced a total loss of her home in a fire that was caused by a neighboring blighted property.
“By God’s grace, she was recovering from a week-long hospital stay with my family when she received the news that she no longer had a home and very few memories and personal items could be saved,” Sabrina Charles, Doris’ daughter-in-law, said.
Sabrina said a harrowing phone call alerted them about the fire.
“She has a daughter that lives on the next street as her,” Sabrina said of Doris. “I don’t know how she found out, but at 2 o’clock in the morning I get this phone call … I mean ear-piercing screams. I jumped up and she said, ‘My mom’s house is on fire … it’s on fire … it’s melting.”
Sabrina said she immediately went into the room where Doris was sleeping and took her cellphone and iPad out.
“I didn’t want people to start calling her,” Sabrina said. “The next morning we sat her down and told her what happened … she just broke. We took a couple of days before we brought her there, and when we did it was just a moment of silence. She was just looking … you could just tell she was in disbelief. She said, ‘Everything I have … everything I have.’”
Sabrina said now more than the loss of material things, Doris is having a hard time adjusting to not having a home of her own and having all of her life’s work contained to just one room.
“Her trailer was the family hub … that was out central location,” Sabrina said. “She was a single mother six children and she raised all of her kids in that home and that was our central meeting place for holidays. Every Sunday after church we would go to her home to have meals with her.”
Sabrina said the whole family is concerned about how the fire is affecting Doris.
“It is so heartbreaking,” Sabrina said. “She has to see the charred remains of the fruits of her labor all by no fault of her own. You can tell that she’s sinking into a depression … it’s just not the same. I don’t want her to deteriorate.”
Thankfully, Sabrina said some photos and other mementos were saved from the home, including the graduation tassels from her grandchildren. Sabrina said it is a family tradition to give the tassels to Doris.
The Charles family is now focused on helping Doris get back into a home of her own.
“The fire was caused by blighted property that we complained to the parish, along with other concerned neighbors, on several occasions.,” Sabrina said. “The parish stated the property is in adjudication and no owners have been identified. Even though there was someone living in the house maybe about two or three years ago, the house was still deplorable and in very poor condition.”
Sabrina said the house fire also caused damage to a home other than Doris’, and because Doris’ home was an older model trailer home it could only be covered with content insurance.
“The damaged property needs to be demolished in order to replace her home,” Sabrina said. “The funds she received from her policy will not allow her to demolish her old home and purchase and set up a new one. We’re seeking donations to help with the expenditure to get her back to a safe and comfortable home.”
Sabrina said while Daniel Johnson of Over the Horizon Demo Service has offered to tear down the home, the family will need to fund dumpsters for the demolition. All in all, the complete process of demolishing the old home and completely replacing it with a new home will cost approximately $50,000.
“Right now the whole family is just a broken unit until she gets back in to a home of her own,” Sabrina said.
A GoFundMe account has been created for Doris and can be found by searching “Grandmother’s Fire Fund” on www.gofundme.com.