A charitable fund set up to help the families left homeless by the Christmas Day fire at the Francis Drake Hotel in Minneapolis had raised $390,000 as of Monday afternoon.
But the organizations assisting those who lost their homes hope to raise $1 million after the blaze eliminated housing for some of the region’s most vulnerable people.
“We’re looking to raise dollars that support the families’ most immediate needs and then their long-term needs,” said Chanda Smith Baker, senior vice president of impact for the Minneapolis Foundation.
The Francis Drake Hotel served as Hennepin County’s only overflow shelter for families with children experiencing homelessness. About 30 families stayed there through the county’s program. Others privately rented their rooms, and some employees who maintained the building lived there as well.
Officials have said more than 200 people lived in the building. Many of them stayed at a downtown shelter immediately after the fire. People have now been moved to other locations while they work with the county, the American Red Cross and the Minneapolis Foundation to find more permanent housing.
The Minneapolis Foundation said Monday that it has given out $75,000 of the money it raised so far. Of that, $25,000 went to the Salvation Army Harbor Light Center for help immediately after the fire.
Another $40,000 went to the First Covenant Church, which is helping to house 75 people, and another $10,000 is paying for Target gift cards, which will be distributed to the former Drake Hotel residents.
The foundation is also working with some local hotels, which agreed to provide free rooms if the foundation guaranteed that it would pay for any damages, Smith Baker said.
She said the foundation was in the process Monday of approving payments to other organizations helping the residents.
“We’re being as responsive as we can,” she said, adding that they were “trying to get the dollars out within 24 hours.”
It’s unclear how long the Drake Hotel residents will remain in temporary shelters.
Lynette Nyman, a spokeswoman for the Red Cross, said caseworkers were expected to begin longer-term work with some residents this week.
“We’ll be here as long as we’re needed,” she said. “We stick around. We’re going to be helping the very last person get on their feet.”
Fire investigators have not yet said what they believe caused the fire that broke out about 3 a.m. Christmas Day at the Drake Hotel, at 416 S. 10th St.
The blaze ravaged much of the building, and the city ordered its partial demolition last week, saying that it posed a public safety hazard.
On Monday, a contractor hired by the city worked meticulously in the snow, using hand tools to tear down a portion of the building’s northwest side.
The city originally ordered the demolition of the eastern side, where a portion of the roof had tumbled onto the third floor, which had collapsed in on the second.
But city officials had said that they could extend the demolition if they found more damage that presented a danger. It’s unclear exactly how much of the building will ultimately remain standing.
David Frank, who directs the city’s Community Planning & Economic Development office, has said the city expects to learn more about the extent of the damage as the demolition work unfolds.