Local hotel manager helps struggling families avoid being homeless

Local hotel manager helps struggling families avoid being homeless

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — So many people simply can’t begin to afford a house or apartment, especially when 36 million Americans have lost their jobs and people are just trying to survive.

For many people, a hotel or motel is their last stop before homelessness. It’s not cheap and it costs just as much as an apartment, but the difference is you can pay for it a week at a time.

Unfortunately, in the age of COVID-19, a growing number of families can’t afford even that.

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When the doorbell rings at the Southern Comfort Inn, it is the sound of someone wanting to spend the night, a week or even years.

"You can think bad and look down on them but without Traci and a place like this a lot of people would be on the streets,” said resident Want Hearon.

Hearon has called this place her home for four years. Traci Canterbury is the general manager of Southern Comfort Inn and one of Hearon’s best friends.

“Stuff is not affordable in Charlotte at all, they say it’s affordable but it’s not,” said Larre Simms.

Simms is a mother of three and has lived at the motel since August.

"At one point, I was sad because you know you don't imagine you being in this situation,” Simms said.

Charlotte’s lack of affordable housing has forced a growing number of people into motels to avoid being homeless.

That was before the coronavirus and the situation has worsened.

"I think the desperation level is extremely high for the families in hotels right now,” said Issac Sturgill, who is with Legal Aid.

Sturgill said their phones are ringing off the hook from families who can’t pay rent and report that a lot of properties are ignoring the state’s current order outlawing evictions.

"We have seen some pretty underhanded tactics from other hotels. We’ve seen things like the hotels shutting off the power or the water,” he said.

The Southern Comfort is an exception and the manager sees to that.

"When the guests come to me and say, ‘Miss Traci I can’t pay,’ I always put myself in their shoes. If it were me, what would I do and there is no way I can put them out,” said Canterbury.

And many residents are very grateful for Canterbury.

"I pay her and I'm getting caught up and without her I'd be on the streets,” said Hearon.

"Cause if it wasn’t for Traci, I’d probably still be sleeping in a tent or sleeping behind some abandoned building, you know,” resident Filv Horton said.

Legal Aid told Channel 9’s Glenn Counts that prior to the pandemic, they would get around 20 complaints a week about motel owners trying to illegally evict tenants. It’s up to 65 per week now, they said.

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