By Shawn Chitnis
LITTLETON, Colo. (CBS4)– A fire Friday morning destroyed a building on the campus of Shiloh House. The nonprofit uses the building to help abused and neglected youth at a time when the organization is trying to help as many families in need for the holiday season.
“To walk in and see total destruction, it was heartbreaking, several of us had tears in our eyes,” said Anna Miller, an administrative officer for Shiloh House. “We have never seen devastation like this at any of our programs or buildings.”
South Metro Fire reported getting a call about the fire around 6:30 a.m. and crews from other agencies spend hours helping to get the scene secured. Coal Mine Road was closed until just before 1 p.m. Investigators say the cause of the fire is suspicious in nature but cannot say more about what the source of the flames may have been.
“Shiloh House serves abused and neglected as well as at risk youth throughout the state of Colorado,” said Miller. “We also really work on wrap around care and meeting families in the homes where they need it before it ever reaches needing our residential services.”
The organization began in Colorado almost 40 years ago and has five campuses across the Front Range. The organization has helped children grow up to become independent adults and start their own families. Some were struggling emotionally and looked to leaders in the organization as parents, living in a home with as many as 16 boys. Other programs include taking underprivileged children on hiking and camping trips so they can enjoy the outdoors.
“We were so thankful that it was a non-work day and nobody was here so I think it was just shock initially,” said Miller.
From the outside, the building appears almost untouched but inside it is clear the damage is a total loss. Doors to many offices inside were closed so important paperwork with information on patients can be saved. But resources the organization planned to allocate to other programs and needs for Shiloh House will now have to be redirected to help with the cost created by the fire.
“It’s a huge setback, this time of year especially, the needs of our youth increases,” she said. “Keeping one foot in front of the other, just like we teach the kids, keeping our heads up.”
The people they serve are often already dealing with trauma so to see this happen to a place they trust and consider safe may be too much for them to handle, it’s a reason staff will keep them away from the site. They hope to find other locations in town or use their other campus sites to keep all services operating when they reopen on Monday.
“The youth and the families that we serve are really focused on bettering their lives and becoming strong people,” said Miller. “To see this could be very detrimental and heart breaking so we as a staff with protect our youth and families.”
For the holidays, Shiloh House often helps more families than any other time of the year. In some cases, it may be people not seeking their regular services. It is yet another reason why the timing is tough but they remain determined to keep with their mission.
“A lot of our staff have been in this building for many, many years, so we will rally together and come out on top,” she said. “It’s a bump in the road but nothing we can’t overcome as a team.”
LINK: Shiloh House