The Motel Owners' Response to the City's Charges

In a statement issued through their attorney, the Inmans portray their properties as a necessary respite for the less fortunate.

Last Tuesday morning, the City of Seattle Attorney's office, directed by Mayor Greg Nickels' office, issued a press release, showed up unannounced with a combination of 12 SPD officers, lieutenants, and sergeants, city council members, DCLU representatives, relocation representatives, code-compliance representatives, and housing-enforcement representatives. They knocked on every door of my five motel buildings, telling all of my tenants and all of my resident employees to move out by 12:00 noon Wednesday and they were all eligible for $3,000.00 each in cash relocation assistance (which is then forcibly paid by me) to move "because of unpaid utilities." The utility company had not issued shut-off notices indicating payment needed to be made by 5:00 that same day. Later that day, the Relocation Office called with a tentative bill of $106,000 in cash assistance I would need to pay if all applications were received and approved. They indicated 30 people had already turned in applications that afternoon.I paid the utility bills within hours, still unsure and confused as to what was really going on. My guests were also upset and confused, and some also moving out. The buildings are operating as their legal use, which has been hotel/motel since they were built. This was obviously a politically motivated and an organized "assault" on our tenants, staff, and me. This was by anyone's standards a total abuse of government authority and power.The city has acknowledged its intention to use every tool available to close the motels. I am a target because I have five. My response to the charges is that of bewilderment, confusion, and disbelief that the city intends to use such force and scare tactics to close my legally operating businesses. I have always made myself very available to the city, the police department, and the neighbors to discuss any of their concerns. I have not received any complaints, phone calls, or e-mails for a very long time indicating anyone was concerned about any of the properties. To me, not getting complaints, phone calls, and/or e-mails is a signal these people are happy, as they have made contact in the past to initiate discussion, and I have always responded.Shelter is a basic human need. Seattle is an expensive city. People come to low-rent motels after evictions, on public assistance, with children, who are homeless, and often times this type of shelter is someone's last stop before sleeping on the street. To be sure, there are problems on Aurora and my motels are not "The Four Seasons," but I see it day in and day out: There is a great need for this type of shelter.Criminal activity at the motels is simply not tolerated. The police are called and suspicious activity is reported, left to the proper authorities to handle. Unfortunately, sometimes alcohol and substance abuse are problems when people have nothing. Many of my guests routinely spend nights on the street, hoping to scrape up enough money to purchase a room for a night, which brings them safety, a warm bed, and a hot shower. When someone purchases a room for a night, they have also purchased privacy and the space is theirs to use. Should they choose [to] abuse drugs or alcohol behind their door[, that] is out of my control. I simply will not discriminate and have had many conversations with the city and the police to this effect. In addition to the police department's list of people I "should not rent to," I also keep my own. When guests cause problems at the motel, they are added to the list and not rented to again.It has been quoted there were over 460 police calls but just 32 arrests. I understood the reports to also state that these calls included the surrounding neighborhoods, so I am not really sure what the true number is as it relates to my motels. I do know, however, that those 460 calls were not all for drug and prostitution activity, as people call police for all kinds of reasons, including domestic issues/disputes, medical issues, etc. I recall one instance when my manager went to a guest's room who was mentally impaired to find out why the person kept dialing 911 over and over again (she could see this from her office phone). I would also like to point out that this call count includes calls made by motel staff reporting suspicious activity, as the police had requested I do, and that I was assured that no call made by the motel would ever be "counted against me," but instead looked upon as my cooperation to control problems.My motels cater to the homeless, struggling, and less fortunate in Seattle. The neighbors like to talk about how much they "care about the less fortunate," but in fact at the same time say "not in my backyard." One neighbor responded to the plight of our guests stating "that's what shelters are for." The neighbors call the police with sightings of "bad people" walking through their neighborhoods from the motels (which in many cases means they walk from the motel on Aurora to the west, [to] the stores and markets, since very few can afford transportation).I have given more, and more often, to the homeless, battered, disenfranchised, and hopeless in the last three and a half years than anyone I know. If a battered woman comes to our door, she gets a room. If a homeless veteran comes to our door, he gets a room. I will give anyone a room that needs it regardless if they can pay in full or not. I have accepted every voucher from over a dozen agencies and with zero profit in some cases because it was the right thing to do. I have never denied a client of any agency for any reason, even in times when their checks have bounced. I give, and have always given, until now the neighbors have organized and pressured the police departments to the extent that they just want the motels to "go away." I still will not discriminate, no matter how much pressure is put on me by neighborhoods or the city. I cannot and will not turn someone away because they "look" like they may be "bad." I will, however, watch for activities that appear to be problematic, and take action when appropriate. People that come to the motels are adults and responsible for their own behavior, and their privacy will be respected.It is no coincidence that the motels are their busiest on the first of each month. This is when cash assistance payments come out. People come in and buy as much time as they can afford. Then they leave and come back the first of the next month. All except for probably the most needy and most sad, those people who have only homeless ID cards. They have been told by the city that they can no longer rent motel rooms for shelter if their homeless ID card is all they have.With very few exceptions, I have hired mainly those that literally have no home or shelter, no job, no money, no food, and nowhere else to turn. I offer them respect, dignity, and another chance. For many, their chances are highly unlikely that much of a job will be found elsewhere. These are people with pasts, lack of education, and lack of skills, but they can be taught. Day after day I am asked for work by strangers at the motels. In most cases, if I have an opening and I see some potential, I will give them a chance. Many of these very people I give second chances to succumb to their addictions and relapse, but it is in no way supported by me. In fact, for the most part, I have never terminated employment unless they have stolen money or bought or sold drugs on my properties.One family, with a child, was given an opportunity to work at one of the motels, after coming to me via an emergency-shelter voucher program. When their time ran out for assistance, rather than sending the family off onto the street, I gave them an opportunity to work. This instance was met with criticism from the neighbors and city when they became aware of our new managers, and laughingly said, "What are you thinking?" Ultimately, the choice lies with the couple to either take advantage of the opportunity or not. When their young daughter started school with nothing new to wear, I brought her several bags of clothing that my daughters no longer wanted.My family does not donate to charities, but instead, when we clean out our closets or the garage or the pantry, I bring it to the motels. I leave toys, books, men's clothing, women's clothing, children's clothing, household items, etc. in the motel offices with a "free" sign above, and all is gone the same day.One woman came upon us via renting a room for several days, and, like so many, ran out of money. I can only speculate why there were bruises on her arms. This woman had a past, a very sad past, which later we learned meant nine children, none of whom lived with her. She started work as a housekeeper. She diligently showed up for work each day and thanked us repeatedly for the opportunity to turn her life around, stop her past dependence on men, and make a life for herself, have her own place to live, and have her own money.One employee, who more than once reported to work with a black eye, eventually learned to trust me and shared her story of having lived homeless in the cemetery for a year prior to her starting work at the motel.Another small family employed by one of the motels, routinely watched four young children who were living at the motel, and walked these children to the school-bus stop every morning with their own for the several months that the family was at the motel.At another property, a young family lived with a 2-year-old boy. At one point, the mother shared with my manager that she was undergoing methadone treatment, and it would take her the majority of the day to seek these treatments. After learning that the mother was likely to quit treatment because of the difficulty traveling with the child and by bus, the manager watched the little boy in the office on those days until the family eventually moved on.I walked by one motel-room door one day, which was open about a foot. Something caught my eye, and it was one of my regular guests, a veteran man who, naked, had fallen out of his wheelchair. I picked him up and noticed that all of his money had been scattered about the bed and floor. I gathered up every dollar, put his wallet back together, and tucked it away for him. He had just cashed his benefit check, and that was all the money he had for the month. I lectured him about keeping his money out of sight and safe, and he thanked me for the help.In another instance, an older, handicapped woman was allowed to stay for three weeks, free of charge, after she ran out of money to pay her rent. On one bad day, when money was tight, I went up to the room determined to get her out and a paying guest in. I couldn't do it. Now I understood what my manager was telling me when I asked why the rent had stopped for room 30.These are just a few of countless stories played out every day in all of our motels.I feel that communication and working together will always bring the best results. I am completely available to the city and neighborhoods to discuss ideas, and always have been. We have reached somewhat of a wall in our communications, as I feel that I have been asked to discriminate, and I simply will not do it.

 
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