ATLANTIC CITY — Almost 40 days later, residents of the Charles P. Jeffries Tower Senior Apartments on Monday began moving home after being displaced by a fire at the high-rise during a blizzard.

“It’s been traumatizing,” said resident Shulonda Smith as she moved into her apartment. “I’m so happy to be coming back home. There’s no place like home.”

Through a steady rain Monday morning, more than half of the 300 displaced residents began arriving at the building in cars and vans to unload belongings and settle back into their units for the first time since Jan. 4.

They had been relocated at various hotels throughout the city on the night the high-rise fire caused city firefighters to carry some residents — many of whom are elderly or disabled — out of the 17-story building into ice, snow and sub-zero temperatures.

On Monday, Smith pushed a cart full of her belongings toward the building and was accompanied by her service dog, Angel. She said she most recently stayed at the Flagship Resort and was happy to be returning to her own space.

She was one of several residents who lived on floors two through 10 and had clearance to move back in Monday.

Atlantic City Housing Authority Executive Director Tom Hannon said the “massive effort” welcomed back nearly 170 people so far, and he expects all the residents to be moved back in by the end of the week.

“Right now, we’re very hopeful,” he said. “We can have everyone back by Thursday and Friday of this week.”

Hannon said the Housing Authority got gradual city approvals floor-by-floor, and he expects the last few floors to be cleared by Wednesday for everyone else to move in.

About 210 of the residents initially were placed at hotels including the Flagship, Showboat Atlantic City, Harrah’s Resort and the Travelodge Atlantic City on the White Horse Pike, while about 100 others were staying with family and friends.

Residents were told at the time of the fire it would be a few weeks until they got back into the building, which sustained smoke and electrical damage during the blaze. Calvi Electric Co. was working on repairs to restore the power, and the entire fire alarm system had to be replaced and repaired, Hannon said.

The cost to house the displaced residents was about $14,000 a day, according to Housing Authority officials, and the expense fell on the authority.

Hannon said Monday he did not have a total cost of damage to release.

Upon returning home Monday, each resident received $75 in ShopRite gift cards.

Darren Collins, who lives on the 10th floor of Jeffries Tower, drove back to the building Monday with his two dogs after staying at the Travelodge.

Collins said he had a hip replacement in early December and things had been “hectic.”

“I’m hoping all is well once I get into my apartment,” Collins said before moving back in Monday. “I’m praying that all is well.”

Resident Norman Manning was carrying his bags into the building on Monday morning after also staying at the Travelodge.

“I’m glad to be back,” he said.

Never miss breaking news as it happens! Sign up now to receive alerts delivered to your inbox.

Contact: 609-272-7239 Twitter @ACPressSerpico

Covering breaking news for The Press of Atlantic City since September 2016. Graduate of the University of Maryland, Central Jersey native.

Recommended for you

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.