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The fire that destroyed the East Village church also displaced 22 women from the shelter next door

The massive fire that emptied a historic church in East Village Saturday morning also displaced nearly two dozen women living next door.

Twenty-two women living at the historic Hopper Home, a shelter for single women on Second Avenue near Seventh Street, had to relocate after the fire spread to the building, managed by the Women’s Prison Association (WPA), an organization helping women facing incarceration find safe housing and reunite their families.

Neighbors quickly mobilized to help women displaced by the fire.

An entire room filled with clothes has been donated, so much so that the association no longer takes in-kind donations, but encourages monetary donations due to unforeseen costs to come.

“As much as this is a tragic historic loss to the city, to the church and to the WPA, the resilience of the community has been incredible,” WPA spokeswoman Diana McHugh said Sunday, during a telephone interview. “The Middle Church faithful, truly in the midst of their own crisis yesterday, responded by showing up to our family shelter where the Second Avenue women had been evacuated and taking these women shopping.”

“I mean, they were in their pajamas – slippers and bathrobes had been moved from their beds. And the middle Church members who showed up took them out to buy clothes and personal care items,” he said. added McHugh.

After taking refuge in the family shelter from the cold rain, most of the women were transferred to a Department of Homeless Services facility overnight, while some were able to stay with their families due to the emergency, according to the association. Women who have spent the night with their families will be accommodated with the rest of the group by this evening.

McHugh said there had been smoke and water damage to the top two floors and roof of the iconic building, a Greek Revival-style row house built in 1837.

The association has not yet been able to access the building, but McHugh said staff hope to be able to gain access to the building to briefly retrieve residents’ belongings by Monday.

McHugh said she was impressed with the outpouring of support from the East Villagers and New York.

“It’s such a difficult time – we’re in the middle of the pandemic, we’re after the election, it’s been a year for everyone,” she said. “It’s really wonderful to see the staff and the residents come together. And then the church, it’s just a perfect example of practicing what you preach.”

WPA purchased the building at 110 Second Avenue around 1874. According to the Commission for the Preservation of Monuments, the building is considered the oldest “halfway house” in the world for girls and women caught up in the criminal justice system and affected by incarceration. The organization was founded by Quaker abolitionists and prison reform advocates Isaac Tatem Hopper and his daughter Abigail Hopper Gibbons. Today, the building houses women affected by incarceration or at risk of incarceration.

The WPA has been a neighbor of Middle Collegiate Church since the building was constructed in 1891.

Prime Minister Reverend Jacqui Lewis tweeted Saturday: “We are devastated and crushed that our beloved physical sanctuary at Middle Collegiate Church has burned down.”

“And yet no fire can stop revolutionary love,” Lewis added.

The church as well as a neighboring building on Seventh Street and Second Avenue (not the shelter) were completely destroyed by the fire.

A fire broke out in the same building at the intersection in February, closing a restaurant on the ground floor, EVGrieve reported at the time. The building was vacant when the fire started on Saturday before spreading to the church. The FDNY said the February fire was an accidental electrical fire unrelated to the current fire.

Firefighters are investigating the cause of the fire, according to FDNY deputy chief John Hodgens.

“The Middle Collegiate Church is one of the great historic institutions of our community, having served New York City for nearly four hundred years and for over a century, providing the East Village with spiritual and physical resources.” , said Carlina Rivera, East Village board member. declaration. “And the Association of Women’s Prisons has provided housing, jobs and assistance to women involved in the justice system for generations. The damage caused by this fire goes far beyond the structural effects alone.”

The public can donate to Middle Collegiate Church here and WPA here.

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