Family seeks help

Published 10:47 pm Friday, January 6, 2012

In need: Deborah Harris, second from left, and her four children were left homeless Wednesday night when a fire destroyed their home and nearly all of their possessions. She is pictured with three of her children — from left, Nydaijah Hamlin, 6; Kearsha Boykins, 20, and JoQuanna Booth, 14.

Mother, four children face homelessness

The question breaks Deborah Harris’ heart.

“When are we going home?”

Harris’ 6-year-old daughter has asked the same question numerous times since the family’s rented Spruce Street home burned on Wednesday night.

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“We lost everything,” Harris said in her hotel room on Friday. “I was able to save a few pieces of clothes and a few pictures. Everything else is gone.”

Hearing her talk about it, Nydaijah asks again: “When are we going home?”

“We don’t have a home,” her mother tells her tearfully.

The fire was reported at 5:49 p.m. Wednesday. Harris said it began when her 14-year-old daughter put a frying pan on the stove, then somebody knocked on the door. She forgot about the stove and left the house.

The family did not have renter’s insurance, Harris said.

“I’m a single, struggling parent,” she said. “With everything that was going on, it just wasn’t affordable for me. But I realize the importance of it now.”

The American Red Cross put her up in a hotel for three days. The Salvation Army extended the stay for two more days. And the family received assistance with food and clothing.

But that’s not enough to help them start over, Harris said.

“It’s just a total shock to me,” she said. “I feel like I’m buried under a pile of cement and there’s no way out. I’m just trying to make sure my kids have a place they can call home.”

She said the fire has affected her children. Her 14-year-old daughter feels guilty for forgetting about the pan. Her 20-year-old daughter feels she is responsible, because she is the oldest, even though she helped get everybody out of the house.

“I keep telling her, ‘That was the best thing you could have done,’” Harris said. “I’m just grateful it wasn’t my kids. They can’t be replaced.”

Harris also said she’s concerned the fire will affect her children’s schoolwork and ruin their sense of security.

“I struggled to get my children Christmas, and now Christmas is gone,” Harris said.

That remark prompts Nydaijah to whisper in her ear.

“I know you lost your toys, but Santa Claus will be here next year,” her mother responds.

The family is seeking any assistance they can get in the form of clothing, money or other help, Harris said.

“I honestly hope that my community will help me, and the love of Suffolk will pour out to me,” she said. “I’ve always seen anything given to me as a blessing.”

Harris can be contacted at 633-4608. King’s Fork Middle School also is collecting items for the family.

The 6-year-old daughter wears 5T or regular 5 clothes and a children’s size 11 shoe.

The 14-year-old daughter wears size 7-8 pants, medium shirts and a size 8 shoe.

The 18-year-old son wears size 32 waist pants, medium shirts and a size 7.5 shoe.

The 20-year-old daughter wears size 0-3 pants, small or medium shirts and a size 8 shoe.

Harris wears size 7-8 pants, medium or large shirts and a size 7.5 shoe.