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After Fire, 'Door Of Hope' To Reopen With Some Help; 'We Have To Rebuild'

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The homeless are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19.

Many lack the basic necessities to protect themselves. Now, a longtime shelter for the homeless in Chicago's Washington Park community is picking up the pieces after a devastating fire.

CBS 2's Jim Williams reports its executive director is worried because residents had to find another place to stay.

The hard work here at 53rd and Indiana begins with a massive cleanup, and an assessment of all the damage.

"We have holes in roofs of both buildings. All the windows are out and there's no power to the building," said David Pendleton, Door of Hope Rescue Mission Executive Director.

It's the result of a fire that swept through the Door of Hope Rescue Mission on June 4. Eleven men had found shelter at this bridge to a new life.

"It provides a safe environment for men who are recently homeless, who have made up in the heart that they don't want to continue to be homeless and want to resolve whatever it is that brought them this way," Pendleton said.

Pendleton said he took precautions to protect the men from COVID-19. Now they have to live elsewhere. Three of the men don't have phones and Pendleton can't find them. And he's very concerned.

"It is an especially tough time to be experiencing homelessness right now, especially for those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19," said Mary Tarullo of the Chicago Coalition For the Homeless.

She said 77,000 Chicagoans are homeless. Always at risk, but never more so than now.

"So this is a really huge problem. The scope is enormous and we need the city to be doing more in order to protect all of those folks," said Tarullo.

She told CBS 2 the city of Chicago has vowed to use federal funds to create 1,250 units of housing for the most vulnerable homeless Chicagoans during the pandemic. They are those over 60 with preexisting conditions.

But the Coalition for the Homeless would like to city to add at least 500 more units. At 53rd and Indiana, the Door of Hope is working to re-open this safe haven.

"For the most part we have to take it to the studs and rebuild," Pendleton said.

The Door of Hope has a GoFundMe page. The shelter hopes to reopen in six months.

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