Red Cross still helps displaced families, it just looks a little different

ELKHART, Ind. - Three families were displaced after a fire tore through their apartments last night in Elkhart. On any day this is devastating but now with stay-at-home orders in place, not having a home to go to is even worse.

Two people had minor injuries, but thankfully the 10 total tenants are safe.

But it does bring in to question, what happens to those displaced from their homes in a time of social distancing and lack of open businesses to help?

The Executive Director of the American Red Cross, Kristin Marlow-Kellemen told ABC57 they are adapting to continue to help residents.

“Creating an opportunity to connect in a different manner with the clients. Our service delivery has not changed just how we deliver the service has changed,” Marlow-Kellemen said. “We’ve ended up transferring everything over to what we call virtual response.”

When Red Cross volunteers would normally go to a scene to find out information, now that’s not possible. So they have to reach out to other sources like the fire department to verify any contact information and livability and condition of the scene.

Then they can connect virtually with a client through facetime video to find out their immediate needs.

“We do that as much face to face as we can with things like zoom or facetime and then we will make arrangements to drop off the client’s assistance card that has that financial assistance on it,” she said. “Just because we’re all sheltering at home doesn’t mean disasters such as this don’t happen.”

The Elkhart Fire Department is still working out the cause of the fire, but the building is destroyed.

All of the tenants did have a place to stay Thursday night and are directly in contact with the local Red Cross for that financial assistance.

However, it’s not only important to make sure those displaced have a place to go and essential supplies but now during this pandemic, it’s also important to be mindful of their health and the health of the volunteers trying to help.

“It’s hard for our volunteers not to go meet these clients in their front yard and give them a hug because we can’t do that right now,” she said.

Disasters are still occurring even during this pandemic.

Since a lot of the red cross volunteers are older, retired or have someone at home that is immune-compromised, the organization is encouraging them to stay home if they feel sick or are worried about getting sick.

But Marlow-Kelleman said that they do have a variety of protections in place to keep both volunteers and residents safe.

“Just making sure we keep the health, the welfare of our volunteers and our clients at the front of how we’re doing things, which means on a daily basis the operational response could change,” she said. “We’re following all the recommendations of the CDC and local health department, gloves, masks, hand sanitizer, social distancing.”

We’re told the Red Cross is actively looking for volunteers right now. If you want to get involved, click here.

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