Ujima Village Shelter Suffers Fire, Organizations Donate Resources

12/20/2017, noon | Updated on 12/20/2017, noon
Unity Parenting & Counseling opened the Ujima Village Shelter as an overnight homeless center for high school and college teens ...
Chesterfield Community Council (CCC) recently celebrated their Annual Holiday Party, and contributed winter clothing and hygiene products to the Ujima Village Shelter, which recently suffered a building fire. Photo Credit: Chesterfield Community Council (CCC),

Ujima Village Shelter Suffers Fire, Organizations Donate Resources

By Christopher Shuttlesworth

Unity Parenting & Counseling opened the Ujima Village Shelter as an overnight homeless center for high school and college teens on

Aug. 19, 2013, but the center suffered a fire this year in the south wing of their building and now local organizations are helping the shelter recover with donations.

Supportive Services Supervisor Anne Holcomb explained that initially, before the fire damaged the south wing of the Ujima Village

building, the shelter’s doors opened from 8:15 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

each night and allowed 24 youth to come inside. But now the shelter,

which is temporarily operating in the center wing of the building

where the senior center functions, can only take in 13 youth during

the 15-minute period because of the lack of beds and resources.

Holcomb said the south wing of their building, located at 7320

S. Yale, was badly consumed by the fire, melting the plumbing and

resources in the basement and caused smoking, heating damages on

the first floor.

“I mean it really burned downstairs,” she said. “The ceiling, walls, structural beams, appliances and dining room tables all melted downstairs.”

Holcomb continued to explain that the local fire department ruled everything out including arson and tobacco but they found a couch leaning next to a wall outlet that was being used, which caused the

couch to catch fire, spreading to the basement and first level of

the building.

“The flames jumped to the next couch and then the structural part of the ceiling,” she said. “The heat of the fire was so intense that it melted the appliances so we lost a washer; two dryers; a stove; a

refrigerator; microwaves and tables.” Holcomb said she tried to take photos of the fire damages but the heat from the fire was too much to

bear at times.

“When I first got in there, 12-16 hours after the fire was put out,

the heat was still in the wall from the flames,” she said. “I was trying to take pictures for insurance purposes but it was so hot that I couldn’t take more than one photo because my photo was getting overheated.”

ServePro South Chicago donated $10,000 worth of pro bono services to fix the smoke and heating damages, which is now

completed, according to Holcomb.

“The plumbing has been restored and the sleeping rooms are nice and clean now,” Holcomb said. “You can’t even tell that there was

ever a fire.”

Unfortunately, the Ujima Village Shelter still has to wait until the building landlord, the fire marshals and building inspector are all

satisfied with the rehab of the south wing of the building and agree

that it’s safe to resume normal operations.

“We would love to move back in right now but we’re not in control of that,” Holcomb said. “The smoke is out of the facility, the utilities are working and we bought new mattresses. But the building landlord said there is more stuff that she has to take care of with the fire marshal and building inspector.”