Neighbors of East Cleveland house explosion critical of Red Cross aid

EAST CLEVELAND - Neighbors affected by the house explosion in East Cleveland say they are disappointed by the lack of aid given to them by the Red Cross.

"When you think of someone like the Red Cross, which is for disaster relief, you think they're prepared for this, this is what they do. That's what you tell your kids, but when it actually happens, it's like, 'Huh?'" said Bernita Burkhalter. 

Burkhalter and her sister lived in the apartment next to the house that exploded. She said they lost everything and had nowhere to go, so they turned to the Red Cross for help. The Red Cross then put them in their emergency shelter, which she says was in deplorable condition, at the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center.

She said the cot her son was sleeping on collapsed, and he was forced to lay on the moldy carpet. She also says there were bugs everywhere. 

News 5 exposed problems with the emergency shelter a couple of months ago and were told at the time that East Cleveland had no money to make repairs or improvements.

The Red Cross said in its defense, the center was the only space offered to them for an emergency shelter. 

"This is a disaster situation, this was a facility that allowed us to be here 24/7 for the time that we needed, said Renee Palagyi, Senior Director for Disaster Relief for the Red Cross.

News 5 asked why the agency couldn't put the women in a hotel, and Palagyu said that's not what they do in a crisis affecting multiple families. 

In the meantime, some pastors and communities members decided to pull their own money together to put them in a hotel for the night. As for the rest of the week, it's unclear where they'll be going for help. 

Print this article Back to Top