Last week a seven-alarm fire ripped through an abandonded warehouse and spread into a Philadelphia neighborhood, displacing eight families, forcing 100 to evacuate and requiring 175 firefighters to keep it under control. One of the houses destroyed belonged to the Simple Way community center and was home to a number of neighborhood initiatives, micro-businesses and two community members–Jesce Walz and Shane Claiborne (Claiborne is the author of The Irresistible Revolution and a speaker at the Foursquare NextGen Summit ’07). Check out this video for an overview of what happened.
Claiborne and Walz lost everything they own (sounds like Claiborne managed to save his laptop), yet it doesn’t seem to phase them:
“The most valuable things in life you can’t buy, sell or steal,” he said. “People ask, ‘How does it feel to lose everything?’ I say, ‘I wouldn’t know. Everybody survived.’ ” (The Philadelphia Inquirer)
The community is trying to rebuild and find hope in loss, setting up funds to help rebuild the Simple Way and to help neighborhood families. They’re also pushing the city to turn the destroyed warehouse–which had been labeled a fire hazard and has been abandonded for over 20 years, yet city officials never acted on it–into a community park. The economic disparity evident here reminds me of Object Orange in Detroit.