MiamiHerald / Melissa Allen went through two life-changing events this year: the February morning when a Miami-Dade judge gave her temporary custody of her three grandchildren, and the July night when they all stood in the front yard in their pajamas and watched her North Miami home burn.
Allen, 55, remembers holding her 2-year-old granddaughter in her arms as her neighbors shot water from garden hoses through her broken bedroom window to try and douse a blaze fed by wood floors, perfumes and her clothes. The fire coated her walls with soot and was so hot it melted air conditioning vents.
It also ate up about half her retirement savings, which she’d just invested in a home expansion and renovation project.
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