CLARKSVILLE — As the clock ticks on the nearly 100 long-term residents who will be displaced when a Clarksville hotel closes next month, community groups, local and state leaders continue to seek resources and assistance.
On June 17, the sale was finalized between previous owners of America's Best Inn and Suites on Eastern Boulevard in Clarksville, and an undisclosed Indianapolis-based investor, hotel general manager Tony Yaldo said Thursday. Two days later, he alerted staff and gave the 65 families who live at the property a 30-day notice to move by July 19.
Yaldo added that the $3.5 million purchase price a different hotel staff member gave the News and Tribune earlier in the week is inaccurate; however he declined to divulge the actual sale price.
The Town of Clarksville also announced Wednesday it intends to buy the property, to redevelop as a gateway into the Eastern Boulevard corridor, in which there are already several revitalization projects in the works.
While Clarksville Town Council District 2 representative John Gilkey said the town has been interested in purchasing the property at different points over the past 15 or so years, he could not say how long the town has been pursuing this particular deal or the price.
Calls to other officials, including Clarksville Redevelopment Director Dylan Fisher, Redevelopment Commission President A.D. Stonecipher and Town Council President Paul Fetter, were not returned by press time.
Yaldo said he was unaware of Clarksville's current plans to purchase the property, but said he has been aware of the town trying to negotiate a sale in recent years.
"There's a lot of developers that wanted it," he said. "I've been here for 22 years and the area is getting developed so definitely a lot of people want the property."
What the sale of the property means for the 98 people living there — 65 families with 32 children — is uncertain.
Many of them may be living in the hotel because they don't have other options, said Jim Moon, pastor at Park Memorial United Methodist Church. Some may be there in emergency situations, and have their rent paid by groups such as Jesus Cares at Exit 0, while others may be using housing vouchers, which aren't accepted by all landlords.
Some simply don't have access to more traditional housing, either because they have a previous eviction or outstanding utility bill, a criminal record or find that paying rent weekly is doable when having a lump sump for monthly rent is not.
"There's some complex situations here," Moon said. "No one would choose to live in Haven House, to live on the street, to live in a hotel/motel if they didn't have to.
"There's some reason and we're going to try to get to the bottom of what some of those reasons might be."
On Monday, members of the task force will be at America's Best Inn, talking with each family to determine what their situation is, to see what kind of help they may need to get a new place to live after July 19.
They will be gathering information such as how many people are living in the room and their ages, any medical issues, addictions or disabilities, and whether or not they have income.
This information will be used to determine which types of places may be available to some of the residents. The information will also be given to Indiana Sen. Ron Grooms, who is working at the state and federal level to identify resources that may be available, including the potential for the Rapid Re-Housing program.
"It's very important that this be done as quickly as possible," he said.
Grooms also has been in contact with others, including representatives from the offices of U.S. Sens. Trey Hollingsworth and Todd Young, seeking their collaborative efforts to solve this issue. He said nearly 100 people facing homelessness points to a larger issue of a lack of adequate affordable housing in the area.
"We've known for a long time that we have a housing issue for the homeless and it's one of the hardest socioeconomic issues that I've dealt with," he said. "It's one of those 'not in my backyard,' it's one of those that local officials feel like is a federal government issue."
Some local governments have already pledged to assist in some way, including the Town of Clarksville. And the manager, Yaldo, said he's going to do as much as he can. So far, he's donated $5,000 to the residents to go toward their placement and has offered to let them take furniture with them.
He said he's also offering for those who are able to relocate to another hotel within the company on Bardstown Road in Louisville. There, they would get a $200 voucher, which would take $50 off every week's rent for the first four weeks.
"I'm trying to do the best thing for everybody — for my staff, for the guests," he said. "I'm going to be here in support for them."