After a fire destroyed a Catholic Charities shelter in Paterson, New Jersey on Saturday, Catholic leaders are counting their blessings that no one was injured or killed in the blaze.
“Thank you to our working Straight and Narrow employees, who, when the alarm sounded, acted diligently and professionally. Our service recipients evacuated quickly and calmly, and none of our employees or clients were hurt,” Scott Milliken, CEO of Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Paterson, said in a statement.
In the late morning on Saturday, August 24, “a small isolated blaze quickly turned into a five-alarm fire, sending plumes of black smoke into the air,” at the Straight and Narrow Catholic Charities three-story residence, Milliken said.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, The New York Times reported.
Paterson, New Jersey is a city of approximately 149,000 people, located 15 miles north of Newark.
The shelter’s 200 residents were evacuated and placed in other diocesan shelters. Those who were receiving treatment for addiction recovery at the Straight and Narrow house were placed in locations where they could continue receiving treatment.
The building that was destroyed in the fire contained a women’s counseling office and a residence for 50 men, as well as some storage space. A building next door containing residential treatment for men and women and a detox hospital unit was not damaged by the fire, Catholic Charities reported.
Msgr. Herbert K. Tillyer, president of the board of Catholic Charities, told The New York Times that 59 women and 10 infants from a shelter next door were evacuated as a precaution, and that everyone had a safe place to sleep that night.
“The most important thing is no lives were lost,” Tillyer told The New York Times. “Thank God it happened during the day when everybody was doing things. That is the gift, the blessing in this terrible situation.”
He added that many who were evacuated now have nothing but the clothes on their back, but that they were receiving assistance from the Red Cross and Catholic Charities, as well as others in the “tight-knit” community.
In his statement, Milliken said that while it will take time to rebuild, the Straight and Narrow is dedicated to continuing to help those in addiction recovery.
Milliken also thanked the Paterson firefighters and other responding departments for their “quick action” and bravery that kept the fire from spreading, he said.
He also thanked the Straight and Narrow staff, as well as Bishop Arthur Joseph Serratelli of Paterson and Monsignor James Mahoney and other diocesan staff for their presence at the scene and their continued assistance, as well as local official officials and residents who offered to help.
“This city is strong, perseverant and has an amazing spirit. We are proud to be the Diocese of Paterson,” Milliken said.
Anyone who is concerned about a loved one who may have been evacuated from the shelter may contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Catholic Charities of Paterson is accepting online monetary donations to help with the long-term and immediate costs of regrouping and rebuilding after the fire.
“Thank you all for your kindness and willingness to help,” Milliken concluded. “We are proud of our city, Diocese and community and thank God no one was hurt.”