MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The fire that started Saturday night at a Marshall apartment complex has left 21 people homeless at a time when charity organizations are short on funds.

Colleen Grothem is the executive director of the American Red Cross Prairie Winds Chapter. She said the fire sparked around 8 p.m. in an upstairs unit of the eight-unit structure.

“There was a lot of smoke damage,” she said.

Some of the residents were home when the fire started, she said, and one of the families was at a near-by park celebrating a daughter’s birthday.

The Red Cross initially thought there were about 30 people who needed shelter, but when authorities arrived at the scene, they found there were 21, five of them under the age of five. Grothem said officials needed an interpreter, because none of the residents spoke English.

The Red Cross determined that many of the residents did not have transportation, so it decided to open the National Guard Armory. Gov. Mark Dayton had declared a state of emergency, which allowed the organization to do that.

The displaced families have been moved into a hotel, but will need to find another place to live Tuesday.

“Most of these folks are lower income, and they all are non-English speaking, and they work at a local plant in Marshall,” Grothem said.

The families hope to get assistance from groups like the Salvation Army, but it won’t be easy, Grothem said.

“Unfortunately for most of us, including Red Cross, we are at the end of our fiscal year, which is June 30, and many organizations are out of funds,” she said.

Such organizations need money to get those made homeless by the fire into another apartment or housing situation as quickly as possible.

“We also need additional funding to help these people get clothing, household items, and furniture and things like that,” Grothem said.

Grothem said the families are willing to go back into the complex, which is being declared destroyed, to salvage what they can. Many of the items sustained smoke damage.

“The problem is they have nowhere to go with the stuff right now,” Grothem said.

To donate to the Red Cross in Marshall, contact Grothem at colleen.grothem@redcross.org.

The cause of the fire is yet unknown.


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