• Some in Merrimack Valley still without places to live

    By: Jim Morelli


    Lawrence, Mass. - For Anthony Wilson, it may not have been an idyllic existence on Brookfield Street in Lawrence, but it was home. Then, on September 13th, Wilson’s house caught fire during the Merrimack Valley gas explosions. 

    "Everything was going up in smoke," Wilson said. "Some fire-people running around."

    Wilson and his elderly mother lost everything. 

    The first two nights after the house caught fire, Wilson said he wound up sleeping in a chair in this yard. In part because he had nowhere else to go. 

    Related: Timeline of events during Merrimack Valley gas explosions

    Then the house started sparking up again, so the fire department made him leave. Thus began a temporary stay odyssey that, Wilson said, continues to this day.   

    According to Wilson, Columbia Gas has paid for each hotel room that he’s had to stay in. Each week he also gets a card to take care of food and other expenses.

    "It's 67 dollars a week," Wilson said.

    But it doesn't go far, And it doesn't give Wilson – who suffers from several psychological issues – the one thing he needs most, stability. 

    "It's been hell," he said. "[Because] I don't know if one day I'm going to be here or be out on the street." 

    He got a taste of that uncertainty just after Christmas. Then, a previous hotel suddenly kicked him out. That’s how Wilson ended up at the Residence Inn in Andover. 

    "I just want an apartment, some place to just lay my head and just concentrate on what I need to do," Wilson said.  

    Related: Costs adding up for Merrimack Valley residents following gas explosions

    The problem in Lawrence: many people want the same thing. 

    "Before the disaster of September 13th, we had a housing crisis," said Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera. 

    "People who were affected by the gas crisis, it just exacerbated the current condition."

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