Residents beware — when people take to social media after a tragedy looking for help, you have to do your due diligence before offering a helping hand.

Here’s a local example.

A woman who once lived next door to the home destroyed by fire at 238-240 Maple St. early last month has been using the fire to get help from an unsuspecting public — only her home was not fully damaged in the fire, according to representatives at the Kearny Health Department.

The woman, whose name The Observer is withholding now to protect the identity of her three children, has taken to Facebook and in postings, says she and her kids lost everything they had.

“Please anyone who is renting an apartment in Kearny and will allow pets. I am trying to get my family back together,” the woman wrote in a Feb. 6 Facebook posting. “We are separated do (sic) to a fire from the apartment next to us. My kids are now living with my brother and sister in law (sic) and I’m bouncing from place to place and so is my fiancé.

“I am wanting to pay an extra fee for animals which would be non-refundable. My did (dog) is 15 years old and if he lives another year we are lucky and two cats. My kids are 17 yrs. 12 yrs. And 4 yrs. They know how to take care of their animals. Someone please help us get back to a normal life. Trying to keep my kids in Kearny with their animals. So anyone please help.”

This newspaper also received a similar email message from the same woman.

“We went from a happy family to a separated one in one day. This happened because of a fire in the apartment next to us,” she wrote. “We lost everything. The only thing my kids held onto were there (sic) pets. This was their security blanket. They are now staying with my brother and his family my fiancé and I have been bouncing from place to place not even together.

“I am begging anyone in Kearny willing to allow my children to come home to me with their pets and allow us to be a family again please open your hearts to us and allow us to rent one of your homes. The dog is 15 yrs old and is 7 lbs. If he survives another year we will be lucky. Trying to stay in Kearny for the kids to stay with friends and in a school they know. Sincerely A desperate parent.”

According the Nelly Albizu, a social worker at the Kearny Board of Health who worked tirelessly to help families who were affected by the fire, while some of the things the woman owned sustained some damage from water, she didn’t lose it all as she’s said she has on social media.

“Her landlord stated she has her stuff in the basement,” Albizu told The Observer. “(Some) stuff got water damaged, but not all.”

Albizu also said the landlord is looking to renovate his building. Whether the renovation is connected to the fire is unclear.

“Her situation is that she had to move because the landlord needs to renovate the place so he returned the deposits and (last) month’s rent to everyone in the building so he can shut it down and do his claims and renovate,” Albizu said.

The woman has also been telling people she’s had to live in her car.

“I was living in my car, but have been bouncing from place to place,” she said. “I’m now kind of stable between my friends and my aunts. My kids are at my brother’s house and my fiancé is in-between his mom’s and his sister’s.”

Not true, Albizu says.

“That is not true that she was in the car,” Albizu said.

Albizu, who has helped mostly all of the residents who lived in the actual fire building, says she’s disturbed that someone would use the fire in an exploitive way.

“That part is the people that were really affected by the fire haven’t even bothered,” she said.

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Editor & Broadcaster at 

Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.