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Blaze closes Rainbow House

By Ed Brock

Smoke and water damage from a Thursday fire will keep the Rainbow House shelter for abused and neglected children closed for a month.

That means the 15 children who were currently being housed at the shelter will have to spend the next 30 days in already crowded foster homes, said Rainbow House Director Phil Kouns. And that means the shelter will also lose its per diem reimbursement for that month from the Department of Human Resources.

"We're going to lose about $50,000 in income," Kouns said. "We need financial help from the community."

The fire started around 3:30 p.m. Thursday in a storage shed that is attached to the shelter's building on Battle Creek Road. The Clayton County Fire Department is still investigating the cause, but Kouns said he doesn't think it is a case of arson.

It was a two-alarm fire, Kouns said, and surrounding buildings were evacuated. Nobody was injured in the fire. There were only two pre-school aged children in the building at the time of the fire and they were safely evacuated. The other 13 children were in school.

"Thank God it happened 30 minutes before our vans were to arrive here," Kouns said.

Kouns said he does not yet know how much the damage to the building will cost to repair. Along with the smoke and water damage there is some fire damage to the wall that adjoined the roughly 12 by 30 foot shed.

The fire also comes at a busy fund-raising time for the shelter. The 6th Annual "Run for the Rainbow" 3.5-mile race from Carrabba's Italian Grill in Morrow is scheduled for Nov. 13, the "Festival of Trees and Lights" at Atlanta Beach in Jonesboro is set for Dec. 2 to 6 and the annual telethon at Southern Regional Medical Center in Riverdale is to be held on December 13.

Kouns said the shelter helps a little over 300 children a year. They are brought there usually by caseworkers with the Clayton County Department of Family and Children Services to get them away from bad home situations.

"We keep them almost full all of the time," said Family and Children's Services Director Cathy Ratti.

For example, two brothers, ages 7 and 4 years old, and their 8-year-old sister were brought there recently from a home with unfit conditions.

"The house was unsanitary and actually considered hazardous," Ratti said.

A 2-year-old boy was brought to the shelter after his parents were found to be using crack cocaine, as well as a 4-year-old girl who had been abused by her mother's boyfriend.

Now that she knows the shelter will be closed for so long, Ratti said, they will have to make some adjustments on the housing arrangements for the 15 children who were staying there.

"And we're talking that for the next 30 days any child we would need to send to emergency shelter won't have this one," Ratti said.

Ratti said she will try to keep the children they help in Clayton County but she might have to seek help from agencies in neighboring counties as well.