Wednesday, March 11, 2009

As Jobs Vanish, Motel Rooms Become Home

*An article on the motel homeless families in the OC published in the NY Times

As Jobs Vanish, Motel Rooms Become Home
Published: March 10, 2009

COSTA MESA, Calif. — Greg Hayworth, 44, graduated from Syracuse University and made a good living in his home state, California, from real estate and mortgage finance. Then that business crashed, and early last year the bank foreclosed on the house his family was renting, forcing their eviction.

Now the Hayworths and their three children represent a new face of homelessness in Orange County: formerly middle income, living week to week in a cramped motel room.

"I owe it to my kids to get out of here," Mr. Hayworth said, recalling the night they saw a motel neighbor drag a half-naked woman out the door while he beat her.

As the recession has deepened, longtime workers who lost their jobs are facing the terror and stigma of homelessness for the first time, including those who have owned or rented for years. Some show up in shelters and on the streets, but others, like the Hayworths, are the hidden homeless — living doubled up in apartments, in garages or in motels, uncounted in federal homeless data and often receiving little public aid.



" many other families, they cannot muster the security deposit and other upfront costs of renting a new place."

"Still, a source of turmoil for motel families is a California rule that after 28 days, residents are considered tenants, gaining legal rights of occupancy. Some motels force families to move every month, while others make families stay in a different room for a day or two."

"(Motel families) are especially prevalent in Orange County, which has high rents, a shortage of public housing and a surplus of older motels that once housed Disneyland visitors."

“The motels have become the de facto low-income housing of Orange County,” said Wally Gonzales, director of Project Dignity, one of dozens of small charities and church groups that have emerged to assist families, usually helping a few dozen each and relying on donations of food, clothing and toys."

"(These motels) look like any other modestly priced stopover inland from the ritzy beach towns. But walk inside and the perception immediately changes.

In the evening, the smell of pasta sauce cooked on hot plates drifts through half-open doors; in the morning, children leave to catch school buses. Families of three, six or more are squeezed into a room, one child doing homework on a bed, jostled by another watching television. Children rotate at bedtime, taking their turns on the floor. Some families, like the Malpicas, in a motel in Anaheim, commandeer a closet for baby cribs."

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