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Housing for Motel Residents Sought

Long-term guests must move under a new city edict. Agencies, businesses and individuals are stepping in to help.

March 03, 2000|JUDY SILBER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It will take hard work, time and a partnership of agencies, businesses and individuals to find permanent housing for long-term Anaheim motel guests under a city edict to move, say those working at the motels.

"Our goal is to partner with as many agencies as possible," said Karen Roper, Orange County's homeless issues coordinator. "The more partners, the bigger success we'll have at obtaining and sustaining permanent housing for these families."

Various circumstances, including lost or low-paying jobs, medical disability or evictions from previous apartments have brought people to Anaheim's motels. Although motel fees are not cheap--a weekly stay at the Lincoln Inn costs $161--guests say it's still cheaper than one-bedroom apartments in Orange County, which average about $1,000 per month.

But Jan. 25 and Feb. 1 City Council rulings have mandated that guests can stay no more than 30 days within a 90-day period at the Lincoln Inn and Covered Wagon motels in West Anaheim. And despite the rulings, city officials concede the city has limited resources to help.

A one-time rental assistance helps with moving costs for those who can afford an apartment, but the city still has to arrange for the program's funding, said city Housing Manager Bertha Chavoya.

Section 8 certificates help pay rents for families who cannot afford an apartment. But Chavoya admitted that the waiting lists are often long--from three to eight years--a time frame that doesn't fit with the city's agenda for the motels' long-term guests.

Nonetheless, the fact that these programs existed was uplifting news for many motel guests at a resources fair held at the Lincoln Inn on Monday and Wednesday.

In addition to staff from the city's housing department, guests met representatives from federal, state and county social service programs, transitional shelters, job training programs, and even had doctors offering medical care.

No resident came away having solved their housing dilemma, but several came away with hope.

Deborah Harpole fell on hard times several years ago after living what she says was a privileged life.

She and her roommate live on $700 per month combined and neither can work because of medical disabilities.

Through the fair, Harpole discovered she could apply for a federal housing assistance program and get job training from Fullerton College.

"I'm really glad I came," Harpole said. "If I could get an apartment, that would solve all my problems."

Roper said she and the other organizations involved realize the fairs are only the beginning of a concerted effort needed to ease the crisis.

Participating nonprofit agencies will divide up a list of Lincoln Inn guests to begin tracking and helping those who want it. And Roper hopes the same process will occur soon at the Covered Wagon.

"We can't force families to move on. But for those who want help, we can create a safety net," Roper said.

Judy Silber can be reached at (714) 966-5988.

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