by Amanda Waldroupe, Staff Writer
With one day until they could be legally evicted from the West Hotel, 15 of the West Hotel’s 27 tenants have found housing and already moved.
Pat Janik, the executive director of the Macdonald Center, the social-service agency which owns the West Hotel, says that the other 12 tenants are far along enough in securing housing that the Macdonald Center will allow those tenants to stay past December 1 until their move-in date.
“It’s just a matter of getting their paperwork done,” Janik says. “I think we are down to four people left who have not already secured housing or with applications. It’s really come along just wonderfully.”
“We’re really hopeful by the end of December that everything is totally fine,”Janik continues.
The Macdonald Center will be rebuilding on the site a seven-story, low-income apartment center for 42 residents and expanded outreach and support services.
John, 68, one of the West’s tenants, is more optimistic about finding new housing than he was two weeks ago. “I got a couple things in the fire,” he says. “We’ll see what happens.”
He also says that tenants are beginning to find housing and are “trickling out” of the West.
“The ones that are looking for places to move are finding them,” John says.
Stacy Bork, community and housing support services coordinator for Transition Projects, Inc. (TPI), says that five of the seven tenants TPI has been working with are in different housing. She could not go into details without violating the privacy of those tenants, but says they have moved into a combination of transitional housing and fair market housing, located in the downtown areas and southeast Portland.
Bobby Weinstock, Northwest Pilot Project’s housing consultant, says that one out of two tenants Northwest Pilot Project is working with has found housing.
Bork says that, across the board, the tenant’s new rents increased by approximately $100 compared to what they were paying to live at the West Hotel. That increase is being covered by TPI’s rent assistance program.
Bork also says that the Macdonald Center paid for the move-in costs and security deposits of the tenants who moved. Those costs ranged from $125 to $450 for each tenant, Bork says.
“They have been willing to provide some financial support,” Bork says.
In mid-November, the Macdonald Center hired Darcy Vincent, a relocation specialist who also works at Guardian Real Estate Services as a community developer. Vincent did not return a call for comment. The Macdonald Center had previously assigned the property manager to the task and did not hire any outside assistance.
“She’s a professional,” says John, 68, one of the West’s tenants. “She knows the people to talk to.”
Janik says Vincent’s hire was necessary because relocating the West’s tenants proved to be “a challenging undertaking.”
“We don’t do relocation,” Janik says. “It was sort of a learning experience for us.”
Conceivably, the tenants who have not found housing could stay at the West beyond December 1 for another couple weeks. Micky Ryan, an affordable housing advocate and former lawyer for the Oregon Law Center, says the eviction process can take a number of weeks.
According to Ryan, if a tenant is in a building past the terms of their eviction notice, the landlord can go to the County Courthouse and file an eviction against the tenant. The tenant appears in court in approximately a week from that filing. If the tenant has not already moved or has made plans to move, a trial date is set for the next week.
If the tenant loses the trial, the landlord can have the Multnomah County Sheriff’s office post a 72-hour notice at the tenant’s resident telling them to leave. If the tenant does not move during that three-day period, an officer of the Sheriff’s Department will arrive and physically remove the tenant from the building. No time is left to collect personal belongings, though the tenant is given the opportunity to come back within a couple weeks and collect their belongings.
John says he has been told that the Macdonald Center is not going to forcibly kick people out of the West, a shift from the earlier position that had residents out by Dec. 1.
“It would be great if she put that in writing to the tenants,” Weinstock says. “That would be the compassionate thing to do. It would be more assuring.”
Weinstock is worried about the remaining 12 tenants. Based upon his experience helping tenants relocate to new housing, he thinks that the last tenants to find housing are always the hardest to find housing for, because of their high barriers. Many of the West’s tenants are high-barrier: with felonies in their backgrounds, including sexual offenses, bad credit history, and have little or no income.
Janik originally said that the West Hotel would be demolished in January, but the Bureau of Development Services, which issues permits for such construction projects, has no permit on file for the demolition.
Weinstock wants to have a meeting of all the agencies involved who are helping the remaining tenants find housing, including the Macdonald Center, Transition Projects, Central City Concern and Northwest Pilot Project.
“It’s way past due that we all got together,” Weinstock says, to share information and work collaboratively to help the remaining tenants.
Read Street Roots editorial here.