Ben Allen stood inside his mobile home that was totaled by fire last week.
Burnt insulation hung from the roof of the home. A basket of melted clothes sat on the floor, and a shiny BB gun peeked out from under the ash-covered floor.
Very little was recognizable amid the soot, though it was easy to make out the large piano in the center of his living room and an organ a few feet away.
“This was the last thing that I wanted to happen,” said Allen, 48.
While it was difficult for the Lawrence musician to see his destroyed belongings, he said all he could do now was look forward.
“It’s going to be a matter of starting over,” he said.
Allen purchased the mobile home at 1908 E. 19th St. two years ago. He said it was a “stepping stone” in his life, a move that brought him out of a period of homelessness. Now, Friday’s fire has left him homeless yet again.
Allen came to Lawrence from Montana and plans on staying in the community.
“I’m not going to let it be the end of my life; I’m going to go on and that’s about all I can do,” he said. “Gather up what I can and move forward.”
Allen, who doesn’t have a car, carries around a badly burned bag from place to place. When returning to the remains of his home on Wednesday afternoon, he grabbed a cherished set of golf clubs from among the rubble.
Fire investigators haven’t determined the cause of the mobile home fire, which they said caused about $15,000 damage. Allen suspects it may have been arson because of past criminal activity around his property.
He did not have insurance to cover his belongings and said his top priority was to find some steady income. Until now, he’s been able to support himself with piano gigs around town.
Currently he’s staying at a local hotel and plans to stay with friends for a while.
Allen said he turned down assistance from the Douglas County Chapter of the American Red Cross, feeling someone else might need emergency services more badly than he does.
“I’m resourceful and I’m intelligent, and I’ll figure out some way to get past this,” he said. “It’s not going to be an overwhelming blockade for me; I’m not going to let it be.”