SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — As a prominent housing rights advocate, Christina Olague has spent the bulk of the last two decades working to keep people in their homes.
Now, following a Christmas Day fire that killed one of her housemates and seriously injured another, the former San Francisco Supervisor finds herself homeless.
In a phone interview, Olague tells KPIX5 she has purposefully avoided the news coverage of the fire on December 25th in the 600 block of Baker Street.
Flames engulfed the home she shared with Randy Sapp, 59, and his partner, Patrick Ferry.
Sapp later died from his injuries. Ferry was hospitalized with severe burns.
Olague, who was not injured, said she has been in mourning and in shock and wanted the spotlight of the news coverage to be on the two men who were most affected.
“We were housemates. We lived in this house. And we were friends,” she said, her voice crackling with emotion. “Patrick, I feel a lot of compassion for. He lost his partner. He sustained injuries, burned his hands.”
After neighbors, friends and political allies launched a fundraising campaign to help her get back on her feet this week, Olague decided it would be impossible to ignore all the outpouring of love. She now wants to publicly thank her supporters.
“It would almost be rude not to respond with gratitude,” she said. “People are coming from their heart, genuinely concerned about my welfare.”
“I intentionally tried to keep a low profile but people eventually made the connection that I lived there,” she added.
Friends have established a donation fund on wepay.com, which has already raised $7,400. A future fundraising event is being planned at El Rio nightclub in the Mission on January 12th, from 3 PM to 8 PM, according to one of the organizers, Tom Temprano.
Several of her former colleagues on the Board of Supervisors are slated to co-host.
“People started reaching out, creating websites, started fundraising,” Olague said. “I didn’t do anything.”
Olague said she has been living with friends, but hopes to move into more permanent housing eventually.
In January, 2012, Olague was appointed Supervisor of District 5 by Mayor Ed Lee after Ross Mirkarimi resigned to become Sheriff. Olague lost her reelection bid later that year.
This week, as news of her predicament trickled out, Olague said she has heard from many people, including some who she has helped in the past through her housing advocacy work. She said she is touched by the fact that they are contributing what they can to help an old friend.
“The support I’ve received from the community is so overwhelming,” Olague said.
“It’s very moving and humbling and I’m really grateful for it.”