January 3, 2017
ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Hasib Lolic, left, describes what it was like to be in the burning building at 22 W. Baltimore St. as his parents, Nedzib and Ajsa, listen.
By THOMAS GRILLO
LYNN — The Lolic family has just one wish for 2017: A new place to live.
The Bosnian immigrants were among dozens of families who were left homeless following the six-alarm fire on West Baltimore Street early Sunday morning.
“We stayed with a cousin last night, but it’s really crowded and we need our own place,” said Hasib Lolic.
After spending two nights with family, Lolic, his wife, their one- and three-year-old children and his parents gathered in the basement of City Hall to meet local, state and federal agencies who were assisting victims.
Representatives from the mayor’s office, Lynn Housing Authority, Department of Housing & Community Development, Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Immigration Services, Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Transitional Assistance set up tables in City Hall’s corridors to meet with the two dozen families who are still seeking housing.
Michele Desmarais, the city’s public health director, said the makeshift resource center was assembled early yesterday.
“Our goal is make sure that all the victims have what they need,” she said. “We created a one-stop shop to make it easier for them to receive the assistance they need.”
Kokou Adjinda, 23, who lived at the 22 West Baltimore St. property for nearly two years, said he needs help getting settled into a new apartment.
“I’m here today to hopefully gather some information on our next steps,” he said. “I am staying with a cousin in Lynn, but we need to find a new place to live.”
His roommate, Fabio Faria, 23, said he received a promise that he will receive a security deposit and first month’s rent for a new apartment.
On Thursday, Lynn firefighters will accompany former residents of the first three floors to retrieve their belongings.
It’s unclear whether the building will be demolished, according to Clint Muche, Lynn’s deputy building commissioner. While the four-story building is uninhabitable, the initial report from a structural engineer said the property is stable and not in immediate danger of collapse, he said.
“It will be up to the landlord and the insurance company to make the repairs or determine it’s cheaper to demolish the building and build new,” Muche said.
For the families who were misplaced, the memory of the fire is still quite raw.
“We were all sleeping when we heard the fire alarms go off in the hallway,” said Lolic. “We thought people were probably cooking, but when we opened the door, we heard people running and screaming and saw the thick black smoke in the hallways pouring down the stairs and we made it out.”
Paul Ricchi, director of the city’s Office of Emergency Management, said about two dozen families still need permanent housing. The Red Cross provided victims with a $1,000 voucher for a hotel. Last night, nine residents stayed at nearby Holiday Inn. He said that the landlord’s insurance adjustor is providing rent assistance.
LynnArts and Centerboard, a pair of community-based organizations, collected more than $2,500 for the victims. They are no longer accepting clothing donations.
“When people in Lynn see people in need, they respond,” said Mark DeJoie, Centerboard’s CEO. “More than 4,000 square feet of space has been filled with donated clothes.”
Drew Russo, Lynn Museum/LynnArts executive director, said he was not surprised by the city’s response to the fire victims.
“This is Lynn and a testament to the spirit of generosity in this community,” he said. “When a Lynner is down, other Lynners show up to help, it’s just what happens here, whether it’s a fundraiser or a clothing drive, residents reach into their hearts, wallets or closets to help.”
To donate to the fire victims, send a check to Centerboard, 16 City Hall Square, Lynn, MA 01901. Make the check payable to Centerboard with Lynn Fire Fund in the memo line.
Thomas Grillo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.