There is no precise number as to how many people are using extended stay hotels or hotels for housing but it’s estimated there are thousands calling these places home. Typically, these are your working poor, people with credit challenges or people who moved to the state with big dreams. There are so many unique stories within an extended stay so you can’t assume one story is like the other. I will be sharing my family’s story in this blog.
We are a multi-generational family that lives under one roof. It’s me, my mom, my brother and my two sons. We were evicted from our home in 2019 due to setbacks of losing employment and falling behind on rent. We found ourselves at an extended stay when we were unable to find a place. And little did we know, there would be a global pandemic in March 2020 that would change everything forever. With the eviction ban in place, it meant we would be stuck where we were for awhile. And though there was an eviction ban for those in apartments and houses, people living in hotels were left vulnerable and unprotected.
I remember the days at the height of the pandemic, the hotel kicking people out because they didn’t have money to pay. It didn’t matter to the manager at the hotel that you lost your job or suffered a pay cut. We are also in an area with a lack of shelters so being put out of the hotel meant living in the streets or living in your vehicle. A lot of the programs that provided rent and utilities assistance overlooked those in extended stays. As I watched the news and read articles, the conversation was centered around those in apartments and houses. People in hotels were barely mentioned in the conversation and I made a video about how it felt to be the forgotten during the pandemic.
Even at the end of this pandemic, we are still barely mentioning those in extended stays and the way forward to ensure everyone has housing. Housing is a human right and no one should have to be without housing. I would love to see this conversation being brought about when we talk about affordable housing and the homeless. Usually when the homeless is mentioned, we are talking about tent cities and those on the streets. We barely mention those that are out of sight in vehicles and hotels.
There is a lack of housing, especially affordable housing. Corporations and out of state investors bought up properties in the area which makes it even harder to rent. There are no private owners that you can tell your story to and promise them a higher deposit. Those days are long gone because no one wants to rent to people with evictions or credit challenges. The eviction ban left a bad taste in people’s mouths and now it’s even harder to find a place to rent. And the costs are through the roof so good luck finding a place where you make three times the rent.
I don’t have the answers but I do have an idea of what I would like to see as a person going through it. I would love to see people in extended stays have tenant rights so they are protected just as renters are. And I understand that most hotels do not want this responsibility so this is going to be a tough battle. The only other idea is to remove the strongholds that prevent those with evictions from renting again. And of course, affordable housing has to be apart of the conversation because there is a report out there that full-time minimum wage employees can’t afford rent anywhere in the United States.
Now, back to my story. I am the mother of two boys and when I worked a minimum wage job, all of my money went to childcare. I dropped out the workforce and tried a self-employment journey but this is hard when you don’t have your own address or a lot of money to get things off the ground. I guess you can say I’m a struggling content creator and artist. I’m a writer, content creator, crafter and dreamer and I have been working extremely hard to get my business off the ground and it hasn’t been easy.
My mother works in childcare and she makes a decent wage but she has an eviction and no one will rent to her. My brother works at Target and was considered a front-line worker. He also makes a decent wage, has an eviction on his report and slow credit so he’s had a hard time finding anyone to rent to him. I do not have an eviction but I have never made enough on my own to rent and when you apply with those that have an eviction, you’re immediately denied.
We have been at an extended stay for a couple years and it hasn’t been easy on us at all. We deal with rude staff, maintenance requests being ignored and being threatened to be kicked out for any reason. We are paying nearly $1600 a month just to be in an extended stay. It’s a struggle sometimes to pay the weekly rate and we found ourselves overdrafting accounts, asking for money or pawning items just to pay the hotel. This has been an emotionally draining situation to be in and I think the worst part is knowing that you are unprotected and never knowing when it could be your day that you’re kicked out with nowhere to go.
We are a multi-generational family looking for housing in the metro-Atlanta area and has been quite the task. Because the conversation is not centered around those in extended stays and those with credit challenges, our future looks rather bleak.