An early morning apartment fire in Lincoln Heights on Tuesday left the Benitez family homeless.
“My son is 17 years old but his screams were of a child calling mom for protection,” said mother Elitania Benitez.
“I wake up and I see there’s fire. Then I wake up my brother. And then my brother starts hysterically yelling,” added daughter Mariachristina Benitez.
The family is grateful to be alive but doesn’t have the means to move elsewhere.
Much of their belongings were destroyed, and the family has been living in the parking lot outside their burned-out unit ever since.
“The landlord doesn’t want to provide any help for us. They recommend us stay here until we get a fire report and depending on fire report is how much help we’ll get,” said son Gabriel Benitez.
The community has stepped up, raising money for the family through a GoFundMe, as well as people who stop by with food and clothes.
“These people have dignity. These are inhumane conditions. The landlord should be stepping up to be able to do what’s right, and she hasn’t responded,” said fundraiser Rudy Lopez.
Despite losing everything at once, the family is counting their blessings.
“Just noticing, I’ve lost it all. Then waking up to the morning, seeing this is our reality and we have to overcome this and I know we will. I believe there’s something better out there for us,” Mariachristina said.