Ploughshares is a social enterprise of Alameda Point Collaborative. We provide job training for residents of our supportive housing community. Proceeds of sales are used to maintain programs for the formerly homeless.
Alameda Point Collaborative: resilience through fires.
As part of our resilience series, we’ll showcase a story from one of our residents every week leading up to Giving Tuesday. At some point this year, each of us has asked what else can go wrong? On April 7th, Jennifer Lautaimi found out when she and her family fled their burning apartment. Their resiliency and compassion of community helped the Lautaimi family overcome this trauma. You can be a part of this community by marking your calendars for Giving Tuesday on December 1st to support families like Jennifer Lautaimi’s at Alameda Point Collaborative.“I instantly yelled at my husband to get my son. I grabbed my purse and my daughter’s hand and ran down the stairs,” said Jennifer Lautaimi, “which felt like a herd of cows being pushed into a cage. The smoke was thick. We had no shoes on, no jackets, nothing but ourselves.”This is a scene painted by Lautaimi, long time APC resident and mother of three, on the afternoon of April 7, 2020, when her apartment building caught on fire. What started as a typical afternoon playing cards with her husband in a full house, with the kids and grandma, turned into a rapid change of events – flames rolling over the top of their house.Her children cried, not out of fear or leaving their things behind, but because of troubled breathing. Neighbors jumped in and offered to take Lautaimi’s children in their home. Another brought her a pair of house shoes.“Once the kids were gone, I sat there and openly gazed at the blackened flames,” she described, “I could almost feel it. My older son was in shock … staring blankly into the smoke.”By this point, Lautaimi’s husband called everyone they knew. They started showing up as the fire was finally extinguished. She described the scene as “drama,” as everyone in the neighborhood watched her building burn from the parking lot. Firefighters were able to retrieve her and her daughter’s medication from their home but, aside from that, the fire swallowed everything she owned. “I am not a rich person, but I have worked hard for everything I have ever had. I did it all by myself.” Lautaimi was born and raised in Alameda. She recalls marrying the love of her life and best friend. Their children consist of one boy and two girls. She graduated from medical assisting school with honors and received her associate’s degree in science. Lautaimi worked as a caregiver for 13 years before she became disabled and resorted to going on disability. Because it took time for the money to pull through, she was evicted from her apartment. Unable to walk, she was introduced to APC by her parenting class counselor. “I have always been the helper, never been the helpee,” admits Lautaumi. “I know now that everyone I helped noticed and that’s why I was blessed with so much love and support during this time.”Alameda Point Collaborative was able to provide shelter and food that night. Red Cross also arrived and provided a hotel for several nights. They also provided pre-paid credit cards for the family’s necessities. Several days after the fire, they were given a new, temporary unit at APC. “I was in shock it happened so fast. My head was so full of things I needed to do when I walked into the new place and realized I had nothing to fill it with. It finally hit me – I have no material possessions left. The only thing I saved from the fire was my meds and my grandparent’s urn.”Soon after, Lautaimi recalls that APC began dropping off things every few hours: pots, pans, a table, chairs, paper plates, cups, and utensils. Then, the whole family had blown up beds and blankets. “Even as much as a delivered dinner from a restaurant,” she added.“They shared our info with other nonprofits in Alameda and, bam, I was answering calls and texts like crazy. In a matter of a week I had furniture and food loaded into the apartment. My son’s football coach even brought us toys and bedding for the girls. People I haven’t talked to in over 20 years were emailing me asking what I needed.”Lautaimi recollects her favorite helping hand, which was a card from an anonymous sender: “Inside the card were words from the bible. Not that I’m a religious person, but I believe and needed to hear what the person wrote. It meant so much to me that I was being helped.”“I have learned never to take anyone or anything for granted,” she says, “also, always have a go bag ready, just in case.”The mother of three says that being strong for her children was the biggest motivation to push through the event. She refused to let them see her upset about unimportant things like possessions. “Everyone survived with their life. That’s all a mother could really ask for.”She adds that APC’s support made her family feel “so blessed.” The children now attend trauma counseling provided by APC. “My middle daughter who was affected the most had nightmares for months after the fire and refused to sleep anywhere but with us. She is terrified of fire now. She has anxiety about loud sounds and a fear of our house burning again……I tell her the same thing every time: no matter what life throws at us, we as a family will survive.”Lautaimi’s family is on the path to recovery. She looks forward to bring “normal” back for her family. “At this point, I am more than ready to move to a permanent unit and decorate.”Lautaimi and her family are in a better place months after the fire, but they – and others affected by the fire – can continue using your help. Let’s celebrate the gift of resilience by giving on Giving Tuesday, December 1st. Mark your calendars!https://secure.causevox.com/pay?url=apcdonate.causevox.com