Sixteen months after severe wind-driven fires destroyed thousands of homes in western Oregon, Catholic Charities is still helping victims piece their lives together.

The Portland-based Catholic helping agency has 35 case managers working with other nonprofits and state offices in Jackson, Klamath, Lincoln, Lane, Clackamas and Linn counties. A federal disaster grant funds the work and will be in place for another year. But even after 2022, Catholic Charities will continue helping those devastated by blazes like the Almeda fire south of Medford, said Jen Matija, director of disaster services for Catholic Charities of Oregon.

“Housing remains our absolute No. 1 issue,” said Masotja. “We are part of a big network to meet needs of folks and make sure we didn’t miss anybody.”

The state has purchased hotels now used as transitional housing for fire victims. Case managers are helping locate permanent housing and then replace big-ticket items like appliances.

Along with durable goods, many victims need help with mental health after suffering such a major loss amid a pandemic. Case managers refer clients to counseling in addition to other needed services like employment.

Masotja said the list of ongoing fire victims includes singles, families, couples and multigenerational households.

Catholic Charities and other agencies are making special efforts to reach Latino households, where trust in government programs generally runs thin. The helping groups made a push to hire Hispanic case managers to build trust.

“We try to let people know we don’t care about their status and we want to help,” Masotja said.

Many fire victims lost immigration documents in the blaze, and Catholic Charities specializes in going through the proper channels for replacement. The agency’s immigration legal team can handle other roadblocks.

The massive 2021 Bootleg Fire northeast of Medford did not receive a federal disaster declaration, so people who lost homes in that blaze can’t be helped by the same program, but Catholic Charities still is giving aid.

Fire victims in need should call 211 to be connected with a case manager in Oregon.

“It’s not too late to come forward,” Masotja said.