Thirty people from 15 families were forced to move out of the American Holiday Mesa Verde Inn in Cortez this month to allow for repairs and renovations, according to housing advocates and hotel officials.
Tenants were issued a 30-day eviction notice and were required to vacate the premises by Sunday.
Four Corners Mutual Aid Network, the Southwest Center for Independence and the Cortez Good Samaritan Center are working to relocate families, but it has been a struggle to find affordable rentals in Cortez.
“We are reaching out to anyone who is interested in volunteering to help explore housing options in Cortez,” said Eve Hemingway, coordinator with the Good Samaritan Center and AmeriCorps worker. “Trying to tackle the issue of affordable housing needs to be a community effort.”
Hemingway and other volunteers raised money needed for hotel rooms for the evicted tenants to stay for a week.
“A lot of the people are nervous because they are not seeing anything available on the market,” she said.
Seven families are looking for long-term housing and eight families are seeking temporary housing.
Families report they can only afford between $500 and $650 per month, and they need a place that accepts pets. One man with no pets said he can afford to pay $270 per month for a place to park a mobile home.
The five buildings at the Mesa Verde Inn motel on South Broadway have long been offered an affordable place to live for low-income families and individuals, said General Manager Glen McCord. The lowest rent has been $150 per week.
McCord closed four of the five two-story buildings of the motel after an extended period of drugs, vandalism, theft and missed rent payments.
While not everyone evicted was problematic, it was necessary to vacate the buildings for the renovations, McCord said.
“We have some work to do, and we could not handle the troublemakers anymore,” McCord said.
Some tenants were relocated to the remaining building.
“Glen is a nice landlord who did the best he could,” said a remaining tenant who did not want to be named.
She has lived there for three years and is grateful for affordable housing. She said when “drug issues” became more prevalent at the hotel, it led to more and more problems.
In October, local police raided the hotel and made drug-related arrests after a yearlong undercover operation.
Now staff members are cleaning the rooms and assessing the damage, said Steven Ray Herrera, a laundry worker and handyman.
Theft and vandalism in the rooms have been an issue, he said, and repairs will take time and money. A brief tour revealed damaged walls, graffiti and broken plumbing, windows and doors. Stolen televisions need to be replaced.
Renovations will take time, and reopening the closed buildings “is a ways out,” McCord said.
Hemingway and Herrera said the drug problem at the hotel highlights the need for a detox center, residential drug rehab center and affordable housing in Cortez.
Addiction and lack of housing are two issues that need attention locally, they said.
“People need help to get clean and finding affordable housing is also necessary for recovery,” Hemingway said.
Herrera said the hotel is looking for a “fresh start.”
“All people have potential for good, but drugs will drag a person down,” he said.