Residents of Old Motel Hoping for City Help

March 27, 2009 11:31:50 PM PDT
The signs posted on the doors of all 53 units at the Storyland Inn say Unsafe to occupy. But people are still living at the dilapidated Motel on Fresno's notorious Motel Drive. Residents of the condemned complex, were supposed to be relocated by now, at the property owners expense. But, resident Mary Howard says management has told them to simply get out."It's very traumatizing. Everybody's shaken up around here. Everybody's scared."

Residents can pay as much as 750 dollars a month to rent a tiny room here. Most would like to move but without first and last month's rent money for a damage deposit and credit references they can't get into a regular place. Bill, a Marine Corps veteran who's lived here for 18 months says, "If they kick me out of here, I'm homeless." So I don't know where I'm going." Bill says his $500 a month in Veterans benefits won't get him anything better than sleeping under a bush.

Under state law the property owners are required to pay relocation assistance to anyone displaced by the owners negligence. Attorney Christina Skaf Hathaway, of Central California Legal Services has been working to help the residents get compensation.

This is not a onetime offense this is something the landlords have been aware of for quite a long time." She said.

The city of Fresno is involved. Code Enforcement is asking the City Council to approve an ordinance providing relocation assistance to folks who find themselves in situations like this. Storyland Inn is in City Council Member Cynthia Sterling's district and she supports the measure.

"It's definitely necessary this will allow for those that have been affected by code enforcement rules and regulations to make sure people have good, quality housing opportunities."

Under the measure the city would provide relocation assistance and then be able to sue the responsible property owners for reimbursement. While it's not clear how much longer the residents will be living, in the motel Ginger Smith and members of her church group came by on Friday to help with food and emotional support.

"We need to search our hearts. and say what if this was me, what if this was one of my children what if this one of my grandchildren. Would you help your family. Well, you know what, this is like our family. These are our neighbors." She said.

We were unable to contact the property owners, they live in Los Angeles. On Tuesday, the City Council will consider a $700,000 homeless relief measure. Part of that money could be used to help move the residents of the Storyland Inn.

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