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Starting New After Losing Everything

November 2, 2023

Canal Alliance Helps a Family Rebuild Their Lives After a Devastating Fire

Maida sits in her apartment.
Maida at her new apartment after relocating due to the fire at the 400 building in the Canal.

On December 19, 2022, the large apartment building at 400 Canal Street in San Rafael caught fire, and multiple apartments were destroyed before firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze. Among the dozens displaced were a woman named Maida, her husband, and their two children. Maida, who immigrated to Marin from Mexico 27 years ago, lost everything she owned that day.  

Maida and her family, and their little dog Coquito (or “Little Coconut” in English) turned to Canal Alliance for support.  

At Canal Alliance Maida immediately connected with Amalia Saborio, a staff case manager. First up, Maida needed somewhere for her family to live. Amalia got to work, and helped them find temporary shelter at a hotel, where they stayed for two months. Unfortunately, dogs were not allowed at the hotel, so Coquito could not stay with them but thankfully a cousin of Maida’s took him in temporarily. Exhausted and traumatized, Maida, her children, and her and husband also needed emotional support, and Amalia referred them internally to Canal Alliance’s behavioral health staff, who supported them in working through the fear and loss of the fire they had just survived.  

Knowing that a hotel room was not a permanent solution, Amalia pushed on, assisting Maida with applications to seven different apartments. All of her applications were declined. Finally, thankfully, Maida’s application for an apartment was accepted, and Amalia and Canal Alliance provided the funding she needed to pay the security deposit.  

Maida and her family, now resettled, were missing just one member of their family: Coquito. To reunite with Coquito, one last hurdle remained. The apartment did not generally allow pets. After having survived so much trauma, the thought of not having their furry family member rejoin them was devastating to Maida, her spouse, and their kids. “Agotamos la última esperanza,” we have exhausted our last hope they thought. They shared as much with Canal Alliance health staff, who had already seen this family endure so much emotional distress and a solution was found very quickly. Canal Alliance’s staff was able to complete the paperwork necessary for Maida to officially register Coquito as an emotional service animal (ESA), a role he had been capably fulfilling for his family for years but that was now more essential than ever as they recovered after the fire. With the required documentation in hand, Maida’s new landlord met with the family, met Coquito, and allowed Coquito to move back in with his family.  

Maida, her family, and Coquito are now rebuilding their lives. Amalia at Canal Alliance connected them to, Make It Home and the nonprofit helped them furnish their new apartment. The new apartment is close to their previous one, a fact for which Maida is eternally grateful, as it has allowed her children to continue attending the same school.  

“Canal Alliance has been so good to us, they helped us when we needed it the most. They got us through the roughest time,” says Maida 

But Amalia wasn’t done yet. After securing temporary lodging, permanent housing, financing for the downpayment, and paperwork for Coquito, Amalia and Canal Alliance’s staff continued providing essential support. With Canal Alliance financial assistance funding, Maida was able to cover the expense of the furniture delivery of four beds and a sofa and pay for new kitchen and cleaning supplies. In addition, Amalia connected Maida with another local nonprofit,  Bloom, to get new clothing for herself and her family. Finally, Amalia helped Maida complete eligibility paperwork for low-income housing, for which they qualify, relieving a huge financial burden for Maida and her family. Today, Maida says she feels super content that her family and Coquito are safe.  

“We really are so thankful for all the help we’ve been able to get from Canal Alliance and thankful for the work you do for the community. Thank you, Canal Alliance.”  

Maida and family continue to benefit from Canal Alliance’s support as they rebuild their lives, utilizing the weekly food pantry and behavioral health services. “Never did we feel we were alone, Canal Alliance always supported us,” she says, “Nunca nos sentimos solos.” 

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