Motel residents speak out against homeless stay limits

Feb 22, 2016

The community got a chance to weigh in on the homeless stay limits in hotels and motels around town at an informational session Sunday.


Pastor David Shaw of the Emmanuel Church of the Nazarene led the discussion regarding the town's new ordinance that will impose a 21-day limited stay at hotels and motels, beginning in May. In attendance were residents of motels, members of the Board of Health, and members of the church community.


At the meeting, motel residents were able to ask Health Agent and Board of Health member Robert Ethier questions about his involvement and the steps he's taking to solve the problem.


Ethier said he and members of the Board of Health are in the process of collecting the information necessary to have a comprehensive picture of the issue.  Many hotel and motel residents are unhappy with the ordinance, and questioned the board's motives. Several residents said it seemed as though the ordinance was just designed to kick them out of the hotels and motels, and force them to live on the streets.


Ethier reassured the congregation that the ordinance was not the only measure being taken to fight homelessness. He said the board needs to figure out exactly how many homeless people are living in the hotels and motels.


The consensus among motel residents at the meeting is that there are at least 150 people staying on motels long-term, which Ethier said was alarming.

“We've licensed seven motels,” Ethier said. “Some don't rent to long term people, so it takes them out of the seven. We have different numbers of how many people are there and what the cost is. We want to know the exact number and who or what they pay.”


Not all of the questions were directed at the board. To hear from both sides and fully understand the issue, Pastor Shaw asked motel residents questions as well.


He asked them what the average stay at the Starlight Hotel was. He was met with several answers, ranging anywhere from 13 to 35 years. One person said they had even raised a son in the Starlight Hotel.


Motel and hotel residents also said they faced issues of underemployment, and that poor transportation was also a huge contributing factor to homelessness.


They also voiced their frustrations with lack of federal, state, and local help. Some said they have waited on the housing authority list for eight years, while others have waited on the Section 8 list for 10 years.


Shaw felt the meeting was beneficial for all parties involved.


“We need to get people face to face, people who have resources to get together in the same room,” said Shaw. “All of the stereotypes exist in the vacuum of face to face relationships. If you can get people together in the same room, we can get past these stereotypes: the goal is to do that.”