Veteran and his partner find comfort at the Red Cross House after home fire

By: Sophie Kluthe

Jeffrey Middleton and Tamika Hunter on the last full day of their stay at the Red Cross House

After losing their home to a fire in September, U.S. Marine Corps Veteran Jeffrey Middleton and his partner, Tamika Hunter, found themselves at the Red Cross House in Philadelphia. The Red Cross House is the center for disaster recovery, where people just like Middleton and Hunter can go after losing almost everything in a fire. 

“I’ve never experienced a fire in my life. To come home and you’re looking at your place, and there’s nothing you can do, it’s a very humbling experience.” Jeffrey said. 

Jeffrey had been at work and Tamika had been at her son’s school for a parent-teacher night, so they’re thankful neither of them were hurt. But they say the whole situations still felt “surreal.” 

“You just see all your stuff being destroyed and that’s devastating. Very devastating. Because we work hard. We’re working people,” Tamika said.  

Not knowing what to expect, the couple arrived at the Red Cross House to find comfortable beds, three meals a day and the space to decompress from what they had just gone through.  

“It’s like a second home, a temporary house, until you transition into your stable environment,” Jeffrey said.  

Even more helpful were the resources the Red Cross House staff linked them up with to help them get back on their feet.  

Tamika and Jeffrey talking to Sibongile Sithole, the Red Cross recovery specialist who assisted them during their stay

Jeffrey added that his assigned recovery support specialist knew exactly what custom programs and benefits would be helpful for his veteran status, making their transition that much easier. He even ended his stay with a new job providing transportation services for the V.A.! 

“Some of the assistance I knew, but they gave me more information, so I did feel good that they were open and willing to help me,” he added. 

The couple ended their stay at the Red Cross House on a happy note. A combination of Red Cross and V.A. resources helped them find and lock down housing that was even better that what they had previously lived in. They said they were thankful to have had a comforting place to be at the Red Cross House while they worked through their recovery.  

“It’s a place where they an ease your mind temporarily so you can focus on transitioning into the next level,” Jeffrey said. 

To learn more about the Red Cross House, visit redcross.org/redcrosshouse 

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