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A south Charlotte motel closes, leaving dozens without a home

The Econolodge on South Tryon Street.
Nick de la Canal
/
WFAE
The front office at the Econo Lodge on South Tryon Street was closed and locked on Friday, Oct. 14, 2022, but many tenants who've been living at the motel remained.

Empty takeout containers and soda cans were strewn about the parking lot of the Econo Lodge on South Tryon Street in Charlotte on a recent Friday afternoon.

The motel's front office was locked. A sign read "closed for renovation," but people were still milling about —among them, a woman named Loretta dressed in scrubs, carrying a bag with toiletries and clothes.

Loretta said she was leaving to go to work at a nursing home, where she planned to shower.

"I have to take a shower there because there's no hot water here," she said.

The hot water and gas have been off for weeks — a sign of the motel's impending closure.

Loretta said she had been living at the motel for a year and half, paying $459 a week for her room — or about $1,800 a month. That's more than enough to rent an apartment in Charlotte, but she said she didn't have the money to cover a rental's upfront costs.

"See, right now they're doubling your deposit, and then you got have first month's rent, and that's hard on one person," she said.

She's among at least 64 residents who've been living at the motel long-term who are now searching for a new home as the owner makes plans to sell the property to a developer, who hopes to covert the motel into apartments.

Nonprofits offering help

Local nonprofits are stepping up to help. Carol Hardison with Crisis Assistance Ministry said she began assembling a team after the project's developer reached out in July asking for help relocating residents.

"We pulled together a housing-finder group, which is Housing Collaborative; a tenant's group, Action NC, that works directly with the tenants; and Legal Aid, who ensures all their legal rights are protected," Hardison said.

The groups began reaching out to tenants, Hardison said, pledging to help them find new homes and pay their application fees, security deposits and first month's rent.

Nick de la Canal
/
WFAE

But finding them new, permanent homes could take months, and Hardison said the property's owner, Shree Ganesh Charlotte, has been trying to get tenants to leave sooner.

"His goal is to have tenants leave the hotel as soon as possible so he can sell the place," she said.

On Oct. 4, tenants found notes taped to their doors that accused them of trespassing and said authorities had been called.

Under North Carolina law, only sheriff's deputies with a court order can forcibly remove tenants — including tenants living in hotels.

The motel owner did not respond to requests for comment. Hardison said she would encourage him to consider a different approach.

"What I would say to him is that fear and trauma is not a way to have an orderly closing of a property," Hardison said.

Tenants face unclear timeline

It's unclear how much time residents have left at the motel. The owner has not yet filed for any evictions in court, though on Sept. 14, residents found notes taped to their doors ordering them to vacate by the end of the month.

One tenant said he didn't know where he might go next and said the uncertainty was unnerving.

"Just sitting around, waiting to get kicked out ain't a good feeling," he said.

His criminal record made it hard for him to find rentals, he said. His chest sank as he considered what could be the worst-case scenario: "Being homeless, with my kids."

The nonprofits have said they won't let that happen. If they can't find a permanent home for a tenant, they've pledged to move them into a new hotel and pay their first three months' rent.

Still, Loretta said the situation was unfortunate. She wiped away tears as she looked back at the two-story building she called home.

"It makes me real sad the way you see all of these people with kids and got nowhere to go. Me — I work seven days a week. Nowhere to go and can't afford nothing. So, it hurts."

She said she had submitted rental applications but had yet to hear back. If she can't find an apartment soon, she could end up moving to yet another hotel.

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Nick de la Canal is an on air host and reporter covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal