WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — Mayor Neil O’Leary tells News 8 there’s still no word how Friday night’s huge fire started at the building on East Main Street that houses a place called The Hospitality Center — a day center that helps the homeless find shelter, showers, computer training, and jobs.
“They’re still trying to make a determination as to the exact point-of-origin,” Mayor O’Leary said.
The fire sent alarm and concern in many parts of the city because the center is well known for being a positive place for those in need — like Chris Bachard, who credits The Hospitality Center for helping him find a job and turn his life around.
“It was devastating,” Bachard said. “I was just like watching it and asking how could this happen to us? It was unbelievable.”
But, less than 24 hours after the devastating fire, the Greater Waterbury community is responding with an outpour of love — people have donated rooms full of clothes, shoes, coats, blankets, toiletries and food to the non-profit company, Center for Human Development (CHD), which operates the center.
They decided to temporarily use their building at 695 South Main St. to help the homeless after seeing the generous response from the community to keep the center’s mission going — despite the fire.
Web Extra: News 8 inside look at the good done by The Hospitality Center
“There aren’t enough words to express the gratitude and appreciation that we have for the residents in the city of Waterbury,” said Belinda Arce-Lopez, program director at CHD.
Members of the Southbury Women’s Club were among those showing up at CHD with bags full of blankets, sleeping bags, toiletries, and food.
“We felt the need,” said Kate Willoughby. “It was an emergency situation when the shelter burned down last night and we needed to help.”
People who help run The Hospitality Center say the community’s response is one reason they acted quickly to open the new, temporary location — determined to not let the fire keep them from helping those who normally count on them.
“My director was there to share some words of encouragement like hey, we’re going to be strong and stick together,” said Shakira Wade.
The CHD building will open again at 9 a.m. on Sunday for crews to accept more donations. It’s located at 695 South Main St.