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Duluth families displaced by fire face challenges, but community rallies to help

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After the Easter Sunday fire that destroyed the Applewood Knoll apartments in Duluth, displaced families are struggling to recover.

The blaze – started by a discarded cigarette – has left 44 people in 19 families without a home, and despite the efforts of the local community they face a long road back to normality.

The Duluth News Tribune reports the displacement comes at a time when the city is experiencing an affordable housing crisis, and that many of those suddenly homeless now face a lengthy wait to see if they can get into some of the low-income housing units expected to become available in the summer.

The newspaper spoke with Iraq War veteran Lindsey Davidson, who had to move into a camper with fellow Applewood Knoll resident Scott Love since the fire.

"This is real. We are all homeless," the 23-year-old told the newspaper, which adds that she will soon be spending three weeks in post-traumatic stress disorder treatment, with the fire adding anxiety on top of the after-effects of war.

But amidst the gloom for families that will now have to apply for sheltered, transitional or permanent supportive housing (which not all of them may be qualified for), there have been tales of the city rallying to support of those in need of aid.

Northland's NewsCenter reports the Duluth Police Department made a special effort for 8-year-old Cole Merritt, who lost all of his belongings in the fire.

Among them was his brand new bike, and after reading about his plight, local police leaders decided to take him shopping for a new one, with Officer John Barrett saying: "To be able to see him riding the bike and the smile on his face as he's trying to pick out the different bikes, it kind of takes you back to being a kid."

Community effort ongoing

Elsewhere, Duluth community members are opening their hearts and their checkbooks to help families get back on their feet.

Benefits were held at Strikers Sports Bar in Superior and The Red Herring Lounge the weekend after the fire.

FOX 21 reports donations of clothing and other goods poured in after the blaze, organized via a Facebook page set up to help the victims.

There have been pleas for donations to individual families affected by the fire through websites like GoFundMe, like this one for a single mother of two kids named Barbara, which has so far raised $660.

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