Displaced Patten residents moved to hotels
Hundreds of residents displaced by a downtown apartment fire are still without a permanent home. Monday, area hotels opened their doors to Patten Towers' residents.
It has been six days since an electrical fire broke out at Patten Towers in downtown Chattanooga. All 241 residents had to be evacuated. Now residents are finally leaving their temporary shelter.
Patten residents are now staying in six area hotels. They will be living in a total of 106 rooms. Monday, the vice president of Northern operations for PK Management spoke with the media.
After some harsh words from Mayor Andy Berke about its response to the situation, PK says everyone is now on the same page and working hard to get Patten residents the help they need.
Berke took time to mingle with Patten Towers' residents at the Brainerd Rec Center Monday, before busses took them to hotels.
Over the weekend, Berke issued a letter to the owner of PK Management, expressing his disappointment in its slow response to organizing help for its residents.
"We've worked non-stop over the past several days to make sure that their immediate needs are met," says Mayor Berke.
"We could not have done this without you. We thank you so much," says Jenee McClain-Bankhead, vice president of Northern operations for PK Management, which owns Patten Towers.
McClain-Bankhead, and others with PK, say it took longer than expected to coordinate a response between divisions. A team of social workers started working with Patten residents Saturday to help them find a new, temporary home.
"Hectic, mixed in with a little craziness and all that," says Patten resident George Willis.
Residents like Willis say they are ready to ditch the cots for a real bed.
"They're not comfortable. I just want to get a bed and stretch out. I just want to get to a bed," says Veronica Dowdy.
"I'm having spasms, you know? I can't dance anymore," Sidney McDonald says with a laugh.
McDonald says all the help from volunteers has been wonderful. But from the very beginning, it has turned his world upside down.
"It's like this. You're sitting at home in your underwear man. And you got these fire alarms at Patton Towers going 'de de de de de!'"
On top of helping residents, PK Management's attention turns to getting Patten Towers back in working order.
"In order to bring them back to Patten, we'll have to bring the property up to code, if there are code violations that are existing," says McClain-Bankhead.
She says PK is working to find out if other fire code violations found after the basement fire were never disclosed to the company before it bought the building.
"The building was cleared. We only had about $1,500 worth of electrical work that had to be done at the time and it was completed," she says.
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In the meantime, PK says they are indebted to the city, and organizations like the Red Cross and Salvation Army.
"You can definitely expect a sizeable donation to both organizations," says McClain-Bankhead.
PK Management has paid for hotel rooms for the next seven days. After that, they will assess if they need to pay for any more days. Managers with PK say they hope they can repair the electrical system in Patten Towers and get people back in sooner than that originally estimated six to eight week timeline.
PK social workers, along with the Red Cross, say they will be back at these hotels at 9:00 Tuesday morning to do welfare checks and health check-ups for Patten residents.