Coloradans living in motel slide closer to homelessness

Despite recent calls from public officials across Colorado for property owners and managers to pause evictions as the coronavirus sweeps through the country, some tenants still fall through the cracks.

From his fourth-floor room, David Davison watched Friday as staff from Aurora’s Summit View Inn, 11800 E Colfax Ave., worked their way toward his room. He knew they would kick him out and feared for his family.

“We said ‘(expletive), we’re going to get booted,’ and you grab what you can because that’s all you can take.”

For a few days Davison, his partner, their two children, his partner’s sister and father stayed with another resident, Trye Taylor, in a single-bed room at the inn. But Monday night the family was kicked out of there, too, Davison said.

“We are now homeless, walking the streets with two kids,” he said.

Taylor said he also expects to be kicked out soon.

The Summit View isn’t a typical motel. Many residents stay there for months or years, often on the brink of homelessness.

In essence, they’re living on short-term leases. And while eviction and foreclosure cutouts during the pandemic cover mortgages and long-term apartment leases, there’s no such help for people living in motels.

Davison and Taylor both said they worked as day laborers, handing a daily fee to the inn as they could. But as the novel coronavirus spread around town, their job opportunities shriveled.

On March 20, Gov. Jared Polis ordered state agencies to work with landlords and property owners to avoid evictions if at all possible. But short-term rentals don’t seem to fit with that directive.

“There’s a kind of gray area,” said Officer Matthew Longshore of the Aurora Police Department. “It’s a civil matter. You didn’t pay money for a product or service given.”

Aurora police arrived at the inn twice over the weekend — called by residents being evicted, Longshore said. The officers keep the peace in those situations but don’t enforce evictions.

One Summit View representative declined to comment and another representative did not return a message seeking comment.

It’s the wrong time for such evictions, said Cathy Alderman, vice president of communications and public policy for the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.

“They are better off there than they are on the streets and forced to use the shelter system, which is already way overburdened,” Alderman said. “I just don’t know where people will go or what they’ll do. There aren’t a lot of options right now.”

The city’s homeless population and those living on the edge are particularly vulnerable to the fast-spreading virus, which causes the respiratory illness COVID-19, experts have said. Many have underlying health issues that could exacerbate the illness’ sometimes-fatal symptoms and most have little or no access to health care.

Rooms are already limited and in high demand. And evictions are a move in the wrong direction, Alderman said.

Hotels and motels also do need to meet their overhead costs, she acknowledged, so perhaps state or city officials could consider lending a hand.

Taylor said he has stayed at the Summit View for years and doesn’t know where he’ll go if he’s kicked out.

“Without any work I have no place to stay,” Taylor said. “I’m going to end up on the street. Now I’m subject to get the coronavirus because I’m going to be out on the street.”

Even if multiple people are packed in a single hotel room it’s still less exposure than in a shelter, where many people come and go.

Davison expressed similar concerns. Without a way to work he mentioned turning to unspecific illegal activities to make money.

He needs to make enough money to get back into his room and collect his family’s belongings. Worrying about the virus isn’t a priority; rather, it’s more important to keep his family sheltered.

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