The 26 families left homeless by an arson fire that destroyed their Inglewood apartment building last month have found new homes--but the blaze destroyed more than just their apartments. It tore apart the tight-knit community of mostly Mexican and Guatemalan immigrants.
The families, who spent five nights in an American Red Cross emergency shelter at Morningside High School and another week at local hotels, are now spread out over Inglewood, Hawthorne and South Los Angeles. "These people were closer than people in average apartment buildings are," said Ralph Wright, a Red Cross spokesman who helped relocate the families. "They all wanted to stay together, but that would have been impossible. There just aren't too many apartment buildings that are sitting empty. We tried to keep them within walking distance of each other."
All but three of the families stayed in Inglewood, and most have told caseworkers that they are happy with their new homes, Wright said. The Red Cross paid the first month's rent for each family and provided food, clothing and some furniture.
Investigators are still searching for the arsonist who started the blaze; three firefighters and 25 residents were treated at hospitals. The building will be razed.