People displaced by Drake Hotel fire move to new, longer-term housing; building demolition underway

Demolition work is underway at the fire-damaged Francis Drake Hotel
Demolition work is underway at the fire-damaged Francis Drake Hotel in downtown Minneapolis on Sunday.
Tim Nelson | MPR News

Updated: Dec. 29, 12:45 p.m.

Many of the people displaced by the fire at Minneapolis' Francis Drake Hotel on Christmas morning are in new, longer-term temporary shelters this weekend, as crews start demolition work on the fire-damaged building.

The four-alarm fire ravaged the building, which served as temporary housing for about 250 people who were homeless. Many of those residents initially took shelter at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis.

The American Red Cross reported Saturday that 30 families moved to an extended-stay hotel on Friday, while about 60 people remained at Bethlehem Baptist on Friday night.

Demolition work is underway at the fire-damaged Francis Drake Hotel
Demolition work is underway at the fire-damaged Francis Drake Hotel in downtown Minneapolis on Sunday.
Tim Nelson | MPR News

Many of the people still at Bethlehem Baptist were set to move to a new, longer-term shelter at First Covenant Church on Saturday, although the church’s pastor, Dan Collison, said the move was slightly delayed because of the icy conditions. He said the congregation is prepared to shelter 90 or more people if necessary.

About 100 Red Cross emergency responders have supported displaced residents since the fire, according to the organization. They say they’ve helped arrange 238 overnight stays, 1,600 meals and mental health services for displaced people. In the coming days, case workers will start to meet with displaced residents to help assess their long-term housing needs.

The Red Cross and the Minneapolis Foundation are asking for financial donations in lieu of goods.

The Minneapolis Foundation reported Saturday that it has collected more than $278,000 in donations to help those affected by the fire. It has approved a grant of $40,000 to support the shelter at First Covenant.

Crews have started demolition work on the Drake Hotel. Minneapolis Community Planning and Economic Development Director David Frank said Friday that crews will take down the east side of the hotel where the Christmas Day fire did the most damage.

Frank said the west side of the Drake will remain standing for now. But he said it, too, will be demolished if the city determines it's not structurally sound.

On Sunday, crews were picking apart upper portions of the brick facade, using jackhammers to remove some of the most precarious debris. City spokesperson Sarah McKenzie said heavy equipment will start to tear down what remains of the structure early Monday.

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