At least 70 low-income families in Anaheim faced an uncertain future Monday in the wake of a city deadline ordering the motel they call home to evict them en masse.
“There are people who are scared to death, and it hurts,” said Teresa Mills, who has lived at the Lincoln Inn for several years. “I just hope that the city has a little bit of heart.”
A recent ruling by the city’s Planning Commission, upheld by the City Council, prohibits the West Lincoln Avenue motel from allowing guests to stay longer than 30 days in any 90-day period. The ruling, which took effect Friday, was in response to residents’ and city officials’ allegations of drug abuse, prostitution and safety violations among some long-term residents of the motel.
Motel owner Ben Karmelich Jr. has denied those allegations, arguing that the facility provides a valuable community service in a county with little low-income housing. “I provide a service for those who want to stay here,” he said. “There’s nothing illegal, immoral or unethical about running it this way.”
Anaheim officials say they have no immediate plans for enforcing the new ruling. “We’re not going to put anyone out on the street,” city spokesman Bret Colson said. But the city also has made no immediate provisions for alternative housing for the motel’s long-term guests, he said.
Some residents are planning for the worst but hoping it doesn’t happen. “If they do make me move, I’m going to have to do it,” Kathy Huntington said. “I’m just hoping they don’t. I’m not financially capable of getting out.”
Given the gravity of the situation, a coalition of social service organizations on Monday sponsored a social services fair for the Lincoln Inn’s residents.
“The goal is to help them sustain affordable, permanent housing,” said Lisa Castaneda, executive director of the Shelter and Hunger Partnership in Tustin, which helped organize the event.
Seated at tables set up in the motel’s courtyard, representatives of 16 government, private and nonprofit agencies handed out pamphlets and housing assistance applications while residents feasted on barbecued steak.
“It’s kind of unsettling,” said Judy Martinez, who has lived at the motel since August with her husband and two sons. The social services fair eased some of her fears, she said. “I’d like to know that we’re safe for a few more months, but we have to be prepared just in case.”
The event was closely watched at the Covered Wagon Motel, a facility on nearby Beach Boulevard that also faces a city edict to limit guests’ stays to 30 days. Owner James Parkin, who rents about 40 of the motel’s 70 rooms to long-term residents, said he has asked the City Council to reconsider and, if that fails, may take legal action.
“We provide a lot of low-income housing for people low on their luck,” Parkin said. “We feel that we do a community service here.”