CHICO -- Hundreds of Camp Fire victims lined up outside an abandoned Sears store in Chico on Friday to take advantage of emergency services being offered.
However, the service that is most in demand is not so easy to come by and that’s housing.
Many people still haven’t come to grips with how they are going to survive for the coming days and months.
They have a lot of questions and that’s why Butte County has opened the assistance center to give them some answers and help on how to negotiate the disastrous Camp Fire.
“Paradise will always be Paradise and when we rebuild, it will be Paradise again,” said Jessamy Cartwright.
Cartwright and her mother Jeanine lost their home to the Camp Fire. They try to remain optimistic as they sit outside a donated tent in a makeshift evacuation center in Chico.
They plan to join the hundreds, even thousands of fire victims who will visit this local assistance center which opened today in an old Sears store at the Chico mall.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other federal agencies joined with local assistance groups to provide housing and transportation grants, low interest loans, unemployment, and the all-important permitting process that will allow victims to rebuild their homes.
“It’s definitely a significant process to rebuild and that’s why coming to the recovery center is so important because they learn those steps,” said Casey Hatcher, Butte County spokesperson.
But knowing the steps is not the same as taking them, especially since many victims of the fire are low income and didn’t have much money even before the fire.
“Hopefully they’ll be able to help with that because we’re broke,” said Jessamy Cartwright.
Right now, the general idea is to find tens of thousands of now homeless Butte County residents a safe place to live.
“Off the streets and into shelters, eventually out of shelters into some interim housing while they can rebuild,” said Hatcher.
The issue is that Butte County had a need for 2,000 homeless people before the fire.
“The reality is, unless they find help from friends and family somewhere else and probably not California, were not doing them any favors telling them to ‘stick around we’re going to be able to provide for you,’” said Ed Mayer, with the Butte County housing authority.
But the Cartwrights will go back on their property when they can, whether the sewer, water or power are fixed or not and they won’t wait for permits either.
“We’ll ride out the winter in this thing that somebody gave us, it’s like a mansion,” said Jeanine Cartwright. When asked if they would stay on their property until they can rebuild, she simply replied, “yeah, yeah.”
The FEMA resource center will close at 7 p.m. but, big crowds are expected this weekend when there could be thousands of fire victims seeking assistance.