THIS WEEK'S TOP STORIES
After fire, family searches for a home
By Jackie R. Broach
The pallet Schellon Sherman planned to spend last night on likely didn’t offer much in the way of comfort. But Sherman was expecting the best night’s rest she’s had in nearly two weeks.
It was to be the first night since her home was destroyed by a New Year’s Day fire that she didn’t have to worry about how many more days she would be able to keep a roof over the heads of her six children, ages 3 to 15.
“It’s a blessing we can finally get out of our hotel room,” said Sherman, 36.
Since their home on Coachman Drive was destroyed by an electrical fire, the seven of them had been living in two rooms at the Hampton Inn in Litchfield.
They had nothing but the clothes they were wearing when they fled the smoke and flames.
Up until Monday, the expenses were paid by charity and church groups, each paying for a night or two before the next group stepped in.
“But there’s only so much they can do. Everybody has their limits,” Sherman said.
This week, she had to start paying for the rooms herself. The inn staff wouldn’t let the whole family stay in one room, because of fire codes, and the $150 per night cost of two rooms ate quickly through the money Sherman was trying to save up to pay a security deposit and first month’s rent on a new place to live.
Sherman, who works as a house cleaner, doesn’t have transportation of her own, but she said she spent every day since the fire looking for a place to rent. With no savings and no credit to smooth the way, it was a rough road.
A close friend and co-worker drove her “all over the place” looking at rentals. The places she could afford were always taken before she got there.
She was losing hope. Then, on Wednesday, Sherman worked out a temporary deal with the Lachicotte Company on a place in True Blue. They waived the credit check and agreed to let the Shermans have the place for 90 days at a prorated monthly cost of $800, plus a $500 deposit.
It only has two bedrooms, so Sherman will have to sleep in the living room, and she’ll have to continue looking for a permanent home, but the relief the arrangement brings is overwhelming.
And it didn’t come a moment too soon.
“People told me, ‘you’re strong; if anybody can do it, you can.’ But even the strongest person can break,” Sherman said. And she had nearly reached her breaking point. She was holding it together for her children, but wasn’t sure how much longer she could do it.
“I can’t cry any more,” she said Tuesday, holding one of her 3-year-old twins in her lap.
“I don’t want to wake up one morning a crazy woman, because what happens to my kids then? But there’s only so much you can take.”
The house wasn’t insured and “we lost basically everything,” Sherman said. “What wasn’t burned up got water damage or soot damage.”
The fire started when a lamp shorted out in the bedroom Sherman’s 12-year-old son slept in, according to Bob Beebe, a spokesman for Midway Fire and Rescue.
Sherman said her son woke her at about 8:45 a.m. to tell her about the fire.
“I jumped up and ran in there and saw the lamp was on fire and the fire was going up the wall,” she said.
She went out to get a fire extinguisher, but when she got back with it, the fire was too big. She closed the door, got her kids wrapped up in blankets to go outside and called 911.
Once they were out of the house, she realized some of the children weren’t wearing shoes and tried to go back in to gather those and save anything else she could, but the smoke was too thick, she said.
The fire was still contained in the bedroom when firefighters arrived.
Beebe said the fire was extinguished quickly and the structure is still standing, but there is significant smoke and water damage throughout the house.
The Shermans received clothing from the Red Cross immediately after the fire, and this week from St. Christopher’s Children, a local nonprofit. Volunteers from that agency bought new clothes, socks, coats and other necessities for the children this week.
Government assistance ensures the family will be fed, but the Shermans still need help. Their apartment is unfurnished and Sherman has no furniture of her own, not even beds.
Sherman said she’ll be able to manage the rent once the family gets settled, and Precious Blood of Christ Church covered the cost of the deposit and part of the first month’s rent for the apartment in True Blue. Sherman had $250 left to put toward the $1,300 total after paying hotel expenses this week.
Another $200 and a $500 gift card were donated through Williams Carpet Center after owner Beverly Causey learned of Sherman’s situation and started collecting donations of money and clothes for the family.
Causey said she found out about the Shermans Monday when she saw a collection jar for them on the counter at the Litchfield restaurant.
Causey asked staff at the restaurant for Sherman’s story and decided to help. That same day, she started sending out e-mails looking for donations.
“I’ve been working on it ever since,” Causey said. “I just went through a fire myself, so I know what she’s been going through. I wanted to do what I could.”
Causey’s house burned Aug. 23. It was devastating, but she said she at least had homeowners insurance to replace what she lost.
In addition to donations of money and furniture, donations of clothing are also still being accepted.
Sherman is still looking for a permanent residence and said she can afford to pay up to $850 a month if utilities are included. She’s hoping to arrange to buy a house on Duncan Avenue her grandmother lived in. The house was foreclosed on after her grandmother died in March.
For information, contact Causey, 251-7826.