The Loyers were almost nonchalant Sunday about their claustrophobic housing arrangement on the edge of Newport Boulevard. It amounts to three rooms, if you count the bathroom and the kitchenette. Until last Friday, they had been living in one room.
"I sleep in the dirty clothes pile, where I like it," 10-year-old Mary Loyer said during a quick tour of their new abode.
The Loyers are like so many of their neighbors in the Costa Mesa Ha'Penny Inn and in places all over Orange County: families in motel rooms because they can't scrape up first and last months' rent for an apartment or they can't find a landlord willing to rent to someone with children.
Their situation has some twists, though. Bill Loyer is a single parent who has been raising six girls and a boy in tiny motel rooms since 1986.
Getting Over Chicken Pox
The two oldest are his estranged wife's children by a previous marriage. One of the seven youngsters is just getting over chicken pox, and three others are expected to come down with it in two weeks.
That is what drew the attention of a local activist group to the Loyers' plight.
"We considered this an emergency situation, and we are trying to find them a house to rent," said Sally Nava Kanarek, founder of Mothers and Others Against Child Abuse, a Huntington Beach volunteer organization that works to relieve explosive family situations before they turn violent or destructive. She said Loyer's sister-in-law telephoned the group about six weeks ago, saying the father was living in one room with the seven children and asking if they could be helped.
"We will provide them with food and some clothing for the kids, but we are a volunteer group in need of volunteers, and we can't provide them with a house," Kanarek said Sunday.
Place to Rent Needed
"He's not asking for free rent, he needs a place to rent for a reasonable amount. He's had these kids alone for over a year, trying to keep the family together. . . . Not a lot of people want to rent their house to seven kids."
Mothers and Others--which plans within three months to open an Orange County "parent help center," where mothers and fathers are taught parenting and coping skills--say anyone wishing to help the Loyers can call 843-LOVE.
A televised news story that aired Friday night about the family's troubles generated 50 calls from people wanting to donate money toward the family's rent. At least two women offered to marry Loyer and care for his children, proposals he says he can't take seriously.
In addition, the Mothers and Others group said it has received about five offers from property owners offering to rent homes outside Orange County to the family for the monthly mortgage payment.
But Betty Calloway, the publicity director for the family support group, said a house is needed in Orange County because that's where Loyer's work is. Moreover, she said, the children, who have moved from motel to motel as managers discover the size of the family, desperately need the stability of remaining in the same school.
Loyer, a mild-mannered bricklayer of 37 who appears older, sat puffing on cigarettes Sunday and hardly winced amid the din as seven children--and seven to 10 others from other motel rooms--scrambled over the two double beds.
Asking for help has meant swallowing his pride, and the publicity has its own price tag for Loyer. He talked reluctantly Sunday of his private difficulties: his marital problems, his financial troubles, his bout with drugs and some prison time for burglary 14 years ago before his children were born. Much of it explains why he is in this motel room with seven children running around like cowboys and Indians.
"This is really no place to raise kids," Loyer said, sighing as he gazed at cars whizzing by the motel just a few feet from his doorstep. "I can do it, I can still raise them. It's just that I want to relieve my kids of a lot of stress. Right now, I can't afford things like a girls' club or skating, taking them out for an ice cream. I just make enough to buy food and pay the rent."
His children have never ridden bicycles of their own, he said.
The rent is $200 a week and a telephone is another $15 at the Ha'Penny Inn, he said. When the manager there learned of Loyer's plight, instead of moving them out, he set the family up in a larger unit for the same price.
When he is working, Loyer said, he earns about $100 a day as a bricklayer. In the winter months, he said he averages about four days of work each week, leaving home at 6 a.m. and returning 12 hours later. The eldest child, 17-year-old Regina, tends the others, and all but the youngest, Jimmy, are in Costa Mesa schools.