Housing Forward displaced after fire

Nonprofit relocates to Oak Park office after attic blaze in Maywood

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By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

The nonprofit Housing Forward, which helps individuals and families experiencing housing-related crises transition to stable living conditions, is in a transition of its own after a fire broke out in the attic of its headquarters at 1851 S. 9th Ave. in Maywood.

According to Maywood Fire Chief Craig Bronaugwh, the fire department got notification of the blaze around 2:54 a.m. on Saturday. The fire, he said, was primarily contained to the attic.

"When fire personnel arrived, there was heavy smoke and first-responders couldn't immediately figure out where all the smoke was coming from," Bronaugh said. "They eventually realized it was coming from the top of the building."

The building was unoccupied at the time of the fire and no one was injured. There was, however, extensive water damage, he said. Firefighters had to use a lot of water to extinguish the fire and had to cut holes in the roof to release smoke.

"Our firefighters did a great job of keeping the fire from extending to other parts of the building," Bronaugh said, adding that the fire department is currently investigating the cause of the fire.

Janet Gow, Housing Forward's director of development and communications, said in an email that the organization "appreciates the quick response of the fire personnel and first responders who were on the scene."

The water damage, Gow said, forced Housing Forward to move part of its base of operations to its newly opened Oak Park office, located at 6634 W. Roosevelt Road, until further notice.

"Those seeking services and programming should visit that office," she said. "Our phones are currently inoperable, but we'll provide updates on our website when they're available."

During a phone interview on Saturday, Gow said services that will operate out of the Oak Park office include financial emergency assistance, as well as the employment readiness program. A lot of the organization's administrative and development staff will also be housed there for the time being.

The organization's housing team will still be in the field visiting clients. Gow said the nonprofit will deploy its street team to make sure homeless individuals have knowledge of the fire and the relocation.

Other staff members in the nonprofit's support center will relocate to the Quinn Center, which is located directly in back of Housing Forward's Maywood headquarters. Patrons can enter the center on Lexington Street through Door #1. Housing Forward's temporary office will be inside of Room 107 in the Quinn Center.

"That's where clients can go for daytime services," Gow explained. "Case managers will also be there to help newly homeless people."

The West Cook YMCA in Oak Park has agreed to provide showers for men and women associated with Housing Forward from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., Monday through Friday. Individuals will need to provide their Housing Forward identification card in order to access the showers.

Gow was uncertain about the extent of the damage or how long repairs will take. She said the attic primarily stored Housing Forward's paper records. Most of its electronic equipment, including a computer server, was located several floors below the attic. The server, she said, has been temporarily relocated to Oak Park.

While the fire is tragic, she said, there's still at least one thing officials with the nonprofit are grateful for.

"It's amazing we were able to open our new office space before this happened because we would've had no other alternatives to support people and relocate staff," she noted.

The nonprofit had previously occupied a space, rent-free, in a church basement in Oak Park, which would not have been large enough to support the current staff and programming relocation that's underway. Despite the damage to its offices, Gow said, Housing Forward doesn't have any plans to move its headquarters from Maywood after repairs are made.

Housing Forward will host an open house for its new Oak Park offices on Sept. 22 at 4 p.m. 

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com  

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