County scrambles to help displaced Gateway Hotel tenants
POSTED: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 - 5:15pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, April 29, 2014 - 2:51pm
Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid fighting to get tenants rent money back
El Paso, TX (KTSM) — Three days after residents of a downtown hotel were kicked of their homes -- more than half are still looking for a new place to stay. County officials say about half of the 40 plus residents are now staying in temporary shelters -- and they hope to find permanent housing for all of them by the end of the week. As we've reported, tenants were evacuated on Monday after authorities found numerous code violations -- from plumbing to electrical issues -- and unless repairs are made -- the building will be condemned.
Former Gateway tenants gather to share a modest lunch at the Recovery Alliance and with what they've lived through at the Gateway Hotel, "It was pretty bad. The first room I was in it had a big ol' hole on the ceiling."A basic meal is a welcome change.
Felipe Avila says he put up with the conditions of Gateway because it was all he could afford. "I had nowhere else to go… because the rent was really low. It was only $370 a month." He's now staying at Recovery Alliance and is receiving help through El Paso County.
"If there's any people that have… that were evicted from the Gateway to please contact so we can assist them,” Michael Flores told us. Flores is the Program Manager for the General Assistance Department for the county. The county is now tasked with finding permanent homes for the 40 plus tenants who were forced out due to the conditions of their rooms. So far they've helped 22 people, including Avila.
Texas Rio Grande legal aid is also helping and sharing their experience with the hotel's condition. We asked Everett Saucedo, Attorney Director for the Legal Clinic for the Homeless if he would recommend that place to anyone, “Oh God no. No. only people you hate should live there,” he said.
They're working to get rent money refunded and say tenants like Avila have a valid case but it's not that easy. "The easy part is actually getting a judgment for… the rent owed or refund, whatever. The hard part is enforcing that."
It’s a fact that Avila is well aware of, "I really doubt that we're going to get it back,” Avila explained. But he's a little more optimistic about where he's going to live. "They're going to help me out. More than likely I'm going to end up staying here, they have a residential program here."
Authorities say they are still working to find homes for former tenants on a case-by-case basis.
We’ve attached a list of resources for anyone in need.
El Paso Coalition for the Homeless – 915-843-2158
VA Homeless Outreach – 915-564-6159
El Paso Police Department (for residents who need access to their rooms) – 838-8013
|EPCH Resource Directory (2).pdf||317.48 KB|