Fire damages Independence shelter for pregnant teenagers - KCTV5

Fire damages Independence shelter for pregnant teenagers

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Justin Schmidt/KCTV Justin Schmidt/KCTV

It hasn't even been 24 hours yet since a fire burned through much of the first floor of Mother's Refuge. Already, though, the team at the group for homeless young mothers is focused on rebuilding.

"When I rounded the corner off Highway 40 and saw the smoke, I knew something tragic was happening," said Executive Director Mother's Refuge Robert Zornes.

Zornes said they'll need help putting the home back together.

"We appreciate the response we've already seen, but we'll need more. I'm overwhelmed with the help already, the people, the churches that have called," Zornes said.

Mother's Refuge has been around for 25 years and more than 1,200 expecting young mothers have been through its hallways. It's the only shelter in the greater Kansas City area that accepts homeless pregnant teens for long-term care because of the medical and licensing issues involved. Keeping its doors open is very important to those who run the shelter, they said.

For now, Zornes and his staff are working to find another home for the four girls and two children who were living there.

"We have to keep our program going. We have girls who need a place to live. We get calls every day from people needing help. We can't stop in any shape or form," he said.

Julie Johnson was working Monday night about 6:30 p.m. when the fire started in a downstairs bedroom of the building located in the 3700 block of Delridge in Independence. She says luckily there were only two other people home.

"I was in the office downstairs. She heard the fire alarm go off. I went down and I could see smoke. I went to the first bedroom and could see fire. I called 911 and she said we all need to get out now," Johnson said.

Officials said no one was staying in the room where the fire started. Everyone was able to get out safely, but the home has extensive fire and smoke damage.

"This is just bricks and mortar, we can rebuild that. I'm glad our girls and babies were safe," Zornes said.

The executive director estimates it'll take about six months to rebuild.

"We're going to need people to help with resources. I'm sure insurance will cover most of it, but it never completely covers it. We are totally nonprofit. We're not affiliated with any organization, but we have lots of churches that donate and other organizations, but we depend day to day on donations," Zornes said.

The shelter is part of a program for homeless pregnant teens and new mothers and their infants. It includes a residential care facility as well as an aftercare program.

The Red Cross is helping the teenagers with food and clothing.

Anyone who can help is asked to call the Mother's Refuge office at 816-353-8070. Callers are asked to leave their name and number and what they can help with. Zornes said it may take a while, but they'll get back to callers.

Independence fire and police are still investigating what caused the fire.

Click here for more information on Mother's Refuge.

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