CLARKSVILLE — Multiple community agencies pulled together Tuesday to figure out how to help the nearly 100 people who may have nowhere to go when a Clarksville hotel known for long-term stays closes next month.
A representative of America's Best Inn and Suites, at 342 Eastern Blvd., confirmed Tuesday the recent sale of the property River's Edge Investment Co. Inc. to an Indianapolis-based developer. The sale was finalized June 17 for $3.5 million, and plans are to raze the structures for new development.
The 140-room hotel is more than just a place for travelers to stop on their way through town — it's been a home to many who aren't able to afford or be qualified for other housing or homeless shelters in the area, including the 98 who will be turned out after the hotel closes July 19.
"I'm getting messages from people saying 'Paul, what are we supposed to do?'" said Paul Stensrud, director of the homeless outreach and ministry group Jesus Cares at Exit 0. "'I have kids, I have dogs, I'm homeless. Where do I go?'
"We're in trouble."
Stensrud said the group has long partnered with America's Best Inn, helping get folks set up there after hospital visits when they had nowhere else to go, especially during bitter cold winter months.
Exit 0 also has partnered the last several years with Park Memorial Church to bring Christmas to the residents staying at the hotel, up to half of whom are children.
"It's going to impact the ministry and so many people as well," Stensrud said.
Representatives of Exit 0, and other community agencies — Haven House shelter, Return Church, Park Memorial Church, Community Action of Southern Indiana, Jeffersonville Township Trustee Dale Popp and others — met to figure out how to get them help finding new housing, and fast.
While the previous hotel owners say they will continue to work with local outreach groups through the other hotels they operate — the closest of which is on Bardstown Road in Louisville — it won't be a solution for everyone, even if there's room available. That's why Stensrud wants to help everyone get identification, such as birth certificate, social security cards.
Some placement, he hopes, can be done through other hotels initially, if people are eligible.
"We know there is a large amount of folks who will not have that opportunity," he said. "We're going to do everything in our power to connect folks."
Barb Anderson, director of the Jeffersonville shelter Haven House, said the group discussed the immediate and longer term solutions to help those soon to be without even a roof over their heads.
"The immediate goals are to house these people," she said, noting the pinch in affordable or even emergency housing in the area. Just at Haven House, she's already at maximum capacity with 93 people. "There's no room at the inn."
Since the news of the hotel sale hit, Anderson has been talking with local and state officials, asking for help for the people who cannot afford the "affordable housing" in the area, or don't have access to it for other reasons, like bad credit or a felony.
"There's nothing out there," she said. "We have to make something available and that means advocating on a state and local level to generate funds."
Anderson said while local leaders she's talked with understand the urgency of the situation, what's needed are housing subsidies, and resources that may be beyond what may be available here.
"Everybody knows we don't have 98 units in this community available for these people," she said. "So where do we go and how do we get there?"
To start, they're not only seeking funding and local and state partnerships, but they'll be doing case management with residents of the hotel Monday, seeing what each family's situation is and what they need. To add to that, school starts in July for many of the kids who will have to move out of their temporary home then.
"Even if we're lucky enough to get them all housed, they're going to need bedding, pots and pans, furniture," she said. "They're going to need all of it because they're in hotels right now."
The Homeless Coalition of Southern Indiana also met Tuesday morning, and put together an action list of what needs to happen before the hotel is closed mid-July.
"It includes a whole host of things, such as doing outreach to the individuals staying there to developing consistent talking points to everyone in the community," Keeley Stingel, director of the coalition, said.
Stingel added that the coalition would also be looking into doing case management and working on a landlord registration list, to see if there are any who could help with housing.