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After an apartment fire left 20 families displaced, one organization is standing in to help

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Posted at 7:12 PM, Jul 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-28 22:28:35-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF)  — In 2022, Nashville fire crews have responded to 61 apartment fires.

Some are small with minor damage. Others are fierce — like last month's blaze that tore through a building at the Foxcroft complex in southeast Nashville. Amazingly, no one was hurt. But 20 units were destroyed, leaving dozens of families with nowhere to go.

Diane Janbakhsh — founder of the Hispanic Family Foundation — was among the first of the volunteers on the scene.

"Of course, they were afraid," Janbakhsh said. "They were devastated. The conditions of the complex were that the whole building was burnt to a crisp. You know that third floor collapsed upon itself. Thank God there were no casualties. "It was really really sad. They had nowhere to go, they lost everything. Everything. I mean — everything, everything. They lost everything. So they had nowhere to go, no one to turn to, and that's where we stepped in."

The afternoon of the fire, NewsChannel 5 spoke with Lazaro Gonzales, a husband and father of two.

"I mean I don't know what we're gonna do now. I mean, everything's gone. Just gone. Just like that," Gonzales said.

But also "just like that," those families would have the help they needed.

"First things first, let's get a roof over someone's head," Janbakhsh said. "Let's get them safe, let's get them secure. And then we'll replace everything that was lost."

As usual, the Red Cross was there quickly, offering temporary help and housing. But Janbakshs said large shelters can be intimidating.

"When you have babies, when you have children, when you have small children — you're not gonna want to go, especially with an immigrant mentality. You're not gonna go be in a big room with a bunch of strangers sleeping," she said. "I mean it's very scary."

Donations poured in: clothes, food, even some furniture. But the immediate need is almost always cash.

"If everything is in place and the funding is there, you can immediately be able to give them money to say 'here's your deposit, here's your first month's rent — go."

But with today's real estate market that's not easy. Affordable apartments like these are scarce.

"Sometimes it might take a year, six months, two years — you never know but we have to follow through with these families, the individuals, all the way until the last one is made whole again," she said.