Apartment fire proves to be ‘real test’ for young adults in transitional housing

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RAYTOWN, Mo. -- At least three young adults who are part of a transitional housing program have new places to stay after a fire on Sunday damaged their Raytown apartments.

The apartments provide transitional housing for young adults who've aged out of the foster care system and live on their own. The apartments are owned by Steppingstone, a program that works with homeless and runaway teens and those leaving the foster care system. The director said the fire proved to be a real world test for those who live at the apartment complex.

"One of the things we do here is we teach life skills," said Duane Lewis. "One of those life skills is safety. ... We're very thankful that the kids did exactly what we've told them to do. Immediately they got out of the building. They called 911. The fire department came."

Although the cause of the blaze remains under investigation, the fire department said preliminary indications are that it was an accident, possibly caused by smoking in a bedroom. Lewis said some of the young men displaced by the fire will share apartments with others in the program until the damaged units can be repaired.

"It could have been much worse," Lewis. "Of course we are very thankful that no one was hurt. That particular building has a firewall in it, so it did prevent the fire from moving over to other apartments, so in that sense we're very lucky."

Steppingstone operates a group home where runaways and homeless teens start out. They move to structured living in one of the apartment buildings similar to the one that burned. And eventually, Lewis says they're able to move out and find their own place to live.

Those living in the apartment building have to pay rent to the Steppingstone program, but that money is held in escrow. When they are able to move out on their on, they get what they paid back as part of a lesson in the value of money.

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