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Fire at SW Portland apartment complex a blow to city's affordable housing options

Dozens of people were displaced after the fire destroyed the building and will now have to find new places to live.

PORTLAND, Ore. — On Thursday morning, a fire escape dangled off the east side of the crumbling May apartments. Below that was debris covering the sidewalk and street. These are reminders that, in all likelihood, the people who called the apartment complex home will never go inside it again.

"I'm still trying to take it in," Barbett Grace said. "I still sometimes think I'll be able to go retrieve some things so it really is unbelievable."

Grace is one of the dozens of people displaced by Tuesday morning's four-alarm fire. She is now staying at a shelter the Red Cross stood up at the University of Portland.

"They have been wonderful," Grace said. "They've provided clothes and toothbrushes and soap and showers and food."

Credit: Mike Benner, KGW staff
Barbett Grace is staying at the Red Cross shelter on the UP campus.

According to Grace, the Red Cross has also provided resources to help with what comes next. It is a challenge for anybody, let alone the residents of the May apartments.

"A lot of folks living there, this is a tragedy that's epic for them 'cause they don't necessarily have the resources to bounce back from something like this," Scott Kerman said.

Kerman is the executive director of Blanchet House, a nonprofit that provides meals and transitional housing in Old Town. Kerman said the May apartments were among the better affordable housing options in Portland.

"Over the years we've had a number of people in our program who have found really good housing over there," Kerman said.

He said his team has reached out to those people to see what kind of assistance they might need.

"It's not the fact they've lost a place to live but they've been utterly devastated," Kerman said.

If anybody can relate to that it is Barbett Grace. The only difference is she is filled with hope, too, because she was set to move out of the May apartments and into a new place very soon.

"My horoscope said I was going to have a new beginning," Grace said. "I don't usually listen to horoscopes, but this one seems true."

Fundraisers for displaced residents

GoFundMe has verified four legitimate fundraisers, as of Friday, May 19, for tenants in need of help due to the fire. Click through the links below to donate to any of the fundraisers:

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