Just outside of Tacoma, a homeless group has taken over a Travelodge motel in Fife, Washington. They initially booked 16 rooms for Christmas eve but have refused to leave since then.
There are rumored to be as many as 40 homeless people part of the group. The group members, who call themselves Tacoma Housing Now, are demanding that the county pay the bill. Their reasoning? The motel has been mostly empty lately, and as such, the rooms wouldn’t have been booked if not for them.
Dozens of supporters have made it hard to evict the trespassers by converging on the scene. Elected officials are negotiating with the group, and it is currently unclear whether or not the hotel manager has asked for police assistance.
According to Liberation News, the motel owner had negotiated with the activists and agreed to allow them to stay for free until December 28. He also shared his desire to provide emergency pandemic housing to homeless people and struggle with THN to be paid by the city or county for this service.
By the time the fourth day came around, the number of homeless people staying in the motel had increased, and even more, supporters came from Portland, Olympia, Seattle, and Tacoma.
The Fife police chief came and said that he wanted the situation resolved and that he would look for another place that the homeless in the Travelodge could stay at.
“Our first goal in this action was to keep these folks out of the cold — some of whom have serious medical conditions and for whom we care very deeply,” said THN organizer Arrow. “We only expected to get one day, and now we are on day four. Goal number two has been to get the owner paid by the city to provide emergency pandemic housing.”
Arrow also stated Tacoma Housing Now’s other demands, including creating a Community Land Trust to turn city-owned land into housing for the houseless, defund the police and use that money to meet peoples’ needs.
Motel manager, Shawn Randhawa, told the FIFE police and the City manager that the motel is simply a struggling small family business with 10 employees.
“They may have to close up shop because with no revenues coming in, with their margins where they are, they may have to close operations,” said Fife City Manager Hyun Kim. “So, I’m trying to buy some time. It starts with conversations with both sides.”
“This is a societal issue,” said Kim. “We have to start the dialogue, but this kind of confrontation, this being splashy about how to get this moving forward, is going to lead to more distrust on both sides.”
“We’re very fortunate in that the business owner, though strapped and wondering if day to day if he can even stay in business, is willing to work with us,” Fife Police Chief Peter Fisher said. “The last thing we want to do is have 40 people in this cold weather kicked back out into the street without any resources.”
“I’m just devastated,” owner Randhawa said. “Because of the protest, I have nothing else. I was barely getting through this pandemic, and now this. This Christmas, the Grinch came.”