DENVER (CBS4) – Jeff Wakeland and Dwanda Shadden had been staying at the Denver Catholic Worker House on Welton Street for only a month when they woke up to smoke billowing from the hallways.

“I felt the door and there was heat. I could feel that,” Wakeland told CBS4 from a temporary hotel room on Thursday night. “Then I opened the door and the smoke — it was just black.”

The fire on Thursday morning destroyed a home that has been providing emergency housing for families in need for nearly 40 years, and Wakeland and Shadden escaped with only a few belongings and items of clothing.

“It was giving us a place to not be on the street, not get cold at night,” Shadden said. “It was going to give us an opportunity to get back on our feet.”

Ana Koop has been there from the beginning, and says as housing costs have soared in the past year, their space has become essential.

“It’s always difficult. You can’t imagine how many calls we would get a day asking for housing,” she said. “Our house was always full.”

Koop described Thursday’s fire, whose cause hasn’t been determined, as “heartbreaking.”

In all, 10 adults and one child were displaced by the fire. One person was taken to the hospital but they are okay.

SECTION: A Place To Call Home

Wakeland and Shadden said they aren’t sure what their next steps will be.

Workers with the American Red Cross are helping out the displaced residents.


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