Displaced Gateway Hotel tenants want answers, rent back


POSTED: Tuesday, March 11, 2014 - 5:46pm

UPDATED: Tuesday, March 11, 2014 - 6:31pm

Gateway Hotel tenants remain shut out of a place they once called home. On Monday, more than 40 residents of Downtown El Paso's Gateway Hotel were told to leave. After the building was found in violation of numerous city code violations -- everything from electrical wiring problems -- to plumbing issues. The two men we spoke with are retired veterans who are living on a fixed income. Even though their rent of about $390 a month may not seem like a lot, for them it's money they expected to be used on this month's rent.

"Boom, boom, boom, it's the police you gotta [sic]get out,” David Jewett, a Gateway Hotel tenant said, describing how he was notified to leave the room he considered home.

Gateway hotel tenants stood by as one of their former building mates walks off with a garbage bag full of belongings. El Paso Police allowed at least one person inside the closed down building on Tuesday. But not everyone was so lucky. "I still got a… $2,000 - $3,000 worth of stuff there."

It will be at least several months before anyone is allowed to live at the Gateway again, according to fire officials. They added, the building is a hazard -- and is in need of extensive repairs. Which leaves the veterans we spoke with at a loss, "Everything my birth certificate, everything like that. They let me take that and that's all I got, one little bag,” David Gamble, another Gateway Hotel tenant told us.

They’ve paid for rent and now they want their money back, both men told us. "You got rent paid and they say that's not going to be nothing, no reimbursement, nothing,” Jewett explained.

David Gamble claimed he doesn’t believe he'll get a penny but that won't stop him from fighting for what he believes in. "I got some words. If you don't give me my money what I lose, I'm taking your butt to court,” Gamble said.

Getting a refund is a civil matter and the Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid Clinic provided on-site advice on Monday, fire officials said. As far as getting any answers from YCL Corporation, the owner of the building, there may not be much response. But there is at least some help.

"The problem right now, that is critical, is they need someplace to live,” Carol World the Social Services Director for the Salvation Army explained. The Salvation Army, along with three other shelters in El Paso, is assisting some of the tenants. "And finding affordable housing for them will be a priority." While tenants hunt for a permanent home.

Fire officials told us they're still working on gathering a complete list of code violations. They add -- if the owners don't fix the issues the building may be condemned.

We have not been able to reach anyone from YCL, the owners of the building. Fire officials said they had to remove everyone immediately from the building because it's considered a hazard.

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