In the wake of last weekend’s massive fire at the corner of 29th and Mission streets, tens of thousands of dollars have already been fundraised for its victims.
A GoFundMe account set up by Edwin Lindo, the once-supervisorial candidate and Frisco Five hunger striker, had raised some $33,000 as of Tuesday night for the 58 residential tenants displaced in the fire.
“The goal is to get each of them at least a base amount, and then look at the needs of each family,” Lindo said. “Some may have four kids, some may have additional needs, but we want the tenants to be a part of that process.”
A coalition of non-profits — the Mission SRO Collaborative, Causa Justa, and Dolores Street Community Services — will meet with the tenants within the week to iron out a distribution model. Lindo said these groups had already been involved with many of the tenants of the Graywood Hotel — a single-room occupancy hotel at 3308 Mission St.
“That’s the perfect team to respond to this,” he said.
The Mission Economic Development Agency will handle processing the funds free of charge through its Mission Tenant Fire Fund, which was started in the aftermath of the Mission and 22nd fire in 2015 that displaced dozens of businesses and some 60 residents.
“By law, the fund that we established for the 22nd and Mission fire remains open,” said Gabriel Medina, a policy manager with MEDA. “So we reactivated it to basically be able to solicit contributions to make sure that there’d be no fees taking out of any of the processing.”
At this week’s meeting, MEDA will present non-profits and tenants with the formula for distribution it used at the Mission and 22nd fire that ensures “the elderly, single parents, children, people with special needs are accommodated,” Medina said.
When meeting tenants, MEDA will also connect them to different financial and city services, Medina said.
“When you have a building that has a high immigrant population in households, they tend to be underbanked, meaning they don’t have bank accounts, because of immigrant status or bank stigma,” he said. “We can also make sure that they get connected to some financial services and the Human Services Agency.”
And it will handle the legal details of transferring the money from Lindo’s GoFundMe to the tenants, an ordeal without such assistance, Lindo said.
“I now have to report it on my taxes, so you don’t do this for fun,” Lindo said.
Lindo, for his part, hoped all of the funds from the campaign would go to fire victims, but GoFundMe will take a seven to 15 percent cut of all the money raised — a fee the company refused to waive for victims of the Mission and 22nd fire in the past.
MEDA has its own fund that doesn’t impose any fees, and Medina said he has received commitments from several tech companies as to fundraising but did not give names or identify an amount since the funds have not yet come in.
Additionally, a fundraising drive for the tenants is being held at El Rio on Thursday, June 30, to solicit funds from customers, corporate sponsors, and the bar itself. All of the funds raised there will also go through MEDA for processing.
The Mission Bernal Merchants Association has a separate, tax-deductible fund for the seven businesses affected by Saturday’s blaze. Two of those businesses — Cole Hardware and Playa Azul — will have their buildings razed to the ground because of structural damage.
The other businesses will be able to rebuild and reopen, but there is as yet no set timetable.
The city is also offering grants of up to $10,000 for businesses affected by the fire and can help them with different legal and administerial services. Those grants are also administered through MEDA, and businesses must contact them to apply.
No Process for Housing
Though MEDA reactivated its emergency fund for victims of Mission District fires, Medina said there is still no set process for helping victims following a fire. The Red Cross and Salvation Army have a system for first response, but finding housing and funds for residents afterwards is still a scramble.
“Someday we’ll get to institutionalise this with the city so we can always be responsive,” he said.
Lindo, who was at the Salvation Army shelter with tenants immediately following the fire, said the situation was often chaotic and called on the city to streamline aid services.
“There is no process,” he said. “This is the sixth fire in less than a year and there still is not process to deal with fires. All of the sudden you’re in a scramble to find housing — there should be a plan that’s in place.”
Supervisor David Campos, for his part, testified at the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday and lambasted the city for not having an established plan. He called on the city to create a plan, and said he would also ask officials for more information on fire code enforcement and prevention.