MELBOURNE, Fla. (FOX 35 ORLANDO) - A fire destroyed the home of a Holocaust survivor, and the man staying with her at the time was arrested. Now, the neighborhood is rallying behind the victim.
When neighbors look at the house on Alexia Street in Melbourne, all boarded up, they can't help but get emotional.
"All of us have broken hearts because this woman should never have to go through this," said neighbor Judy Stephens.
That's because neighbors say the woman who lives there is a Holocaust survivor. She has been forced out of her home by the fire that sparked in her home a few weeks ago.
"I feel really bad. I mean this lady had nothing and now she has less than nothing," said neighbor Millie Ward.
Fire marshals never determined the cause of the fire, but police say when firefighters first showed up, Haniyf Vann was there. Officers say he worked with the woman and was in the room where the fire started. They say he then interfered with firefighters, first trying to stop them from attaching the fire hose to the hydrant, then stepping on the hose when crews pulled it across the street.
"We're all hoping that he gets more than a slap on the wrist. He's just someone who I think maybe he tried to take advantage of an older person," said Stephens, who says her neighbor is now at a healthcare facility.
Stephens calls her one tough woman to survive everything she's been through, the Holocaust and now this. She says she doesn't like to accept help, but neighbors took it upon themselves to board up her home anyway.
"She didn't really need anybody over there, but we just checked on her every once in a while."
Vann is locked up in Brevard County, charged with resisting officers and aggravated assault for preventing firefighters from extinguishing a fire. They say they didn't have enough evidence to charge him with anything else.
The bar "Cheers 2 Go" is collecting gift cards for the woman to help get her back on her feet.