A sign sits beside a tent at a makeshift shelter for evacuees of the Camp Fire.
By Tamar Lapin
The deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history could likely aggravate the state’s already dire homelessness crisis, officials warn.
The Camp Fire raging in Northern California destroyed practically every structure in the approximately 27,000-person town of Paradise.
“Now that we’ve lost all these homes in Paradise, there are going to be more people struggling to find a place to live,” Sarah Thomas, program manager of the nonprofit Chico Housing Action Team, told NBC News.
The disaster in Butte County comes as the Golden State experiences a monumental housing crisis — in a state where nearly half the country’s homeless people live.
“We already had a housing shortage in the county,” said Richard A. Narad, operations manager of Chico’s Safe Space Winter Shelter Program. “We expect some people will end up on the street. It’s going to be a big problem until they figure it out. I’m guessing RV trailers will be necessary. I don’t think there’s enough hotel rooms.”
In Paradise, the median home price was $200,900. The small city was home to thousands of lower-income workers and retirees — before the blaze began on Nov. 8.
“Paradise is not the richest of towns,” said evacuee Danie Schwartz, whose home was spared. “I am from Southern California, which is also ablaze, but it’s like people who are worried about their beach homes burning, the circumstances are a bit different for those people compared to the ones in Paradise.
“People in Paradise don’t have the means to get out of town,” she added. “People are stuck at evacuation shelters.”
While they plan their next steps, some evacuees have been setting up tents in parking lots or sleeping in cars.
“Trying to find a home with [no] funding is really impossible,” said Karman Beller, 33, who lost her home and didn’t have renter’s insurance. “Everybody’s homeless.”
FEMA has promised to help displaced residents who qualify.