By K. Walker
On Christmas Eve, the operator of a Travelodge in Fife, Wash. was delighted to have more than a dozen rooms filled and paid for. By Christmas morning, however, he realized that this wasn’t a gift to a struggling local business. It was a ploy, and he had been thrust into a nightmare.
Shawn Randhawa owns the motel where a homelessness activist group called Tacoma Housing Now has occupied 40 rooms since Christmas Eve and is refusing to pay. The group paid for 16 rooms on the first night but is now demanding that the local government pick up the tab for the remainder of the nights and for any nights going forward. In the meantime, the occupants of the rooms — now squatters — have no intention of vacating.
Randhawa says that he has not allowed his cleaning staff to enter the rooms and is concerned that he will need to lay off his 10 employees if the situation is permitted to persist. He adds that repeated protests in the parking lot have driven off paying customers.
Seattle ABC affiliate KOMO notes:
Under local ordinances, the housing group is considered to be trespassers on private property.
But one of the Tacoma Housing Now volunteers named Arrow said the bigger crime would be forcing the group, many of whom are said to suffer from chronic conditions, back out on the streets.
“One single night in freezing temperatures could potentially kill numerous members that we have living here,” said Arrow, who was able to discuss the situation with Fife city officials Monday night.
Tacoma Housing Now is defending its actions by saying that the motel was empty anyway, so they’re actually bringing business.
The Travelodge was almost entirely empty when we moved in, like all hotels during the pandemic. We’re not costing the owner business; we’re bringing him business by insisting the City and County pay him with CARES money.
— Tacoma Housing Now (@TacHousing) December 28, 2020
One local councilwoman sides with Randhawa, calling the group’s action an “occupation” and maintaining that they came onto the property fraudulently.
Spokesperson for Tacoma Housing Now:
“We paid for the first night and now we’re demanding that the city and county pay for the other nights we’ve been here.”
— Sebastian Robertson (@srobertsontv) December 30, 2020
To further complicate matters, the activists now say that they are “risking their lives” because someone in the group has tested positive for the coronavirus.
[BREAKING] Due to the City of Tacoma and Pierce County’s Refusal to Do Their Jobs, Tacoma Housing Now Organizers Are Risking Their Lives
Positive Covid Cases Confirmed at the Travelodge Hotel pic.twitter.com/oAmPKXfHKL
— Tacoma Housing Now (@TacHousing) December 29, 2020
In fact Tacoma Housing Now leaders are proposing that the funding for the rooms comes from COVID-19 relief funds. That’s the ultimate triumph. As businesses continue to close and out-of-work Americans blow through their savings, why not divert funds designed to help those struggling by financing hotel rooms for the homeless?
Cross-posted at Clash Daily