LifeStyles, county scrambling to help displaced motel residents
Waldorf Motel to be demolished after recent purchase
For years, the Waldorf Motel has been both a temporary and longterm means for housing citizens fighting poverty in Charles County. On many occa- sions, the motel in the Waldorf Station sector of town has been a means for affordable, reliable shelter.
But after today, Feb. 1, that will end with new property owners Greenberg Gibbons asking citizens to be off the premises so the company can prepare for the demolition of the motel and former Rip’s Restaurant to make way for the company’s future development.
Michelle Schiffer, the vice president and assistant direc- tor of asset management at Greenberg Gibbons, said, upon purchasing the property from Chaney Enterprises at the end of last year, the company provided “all tenants 90 days notice that their leases would expire on February 1.”
“Any removal of occupants from the motel is the responsibility of and is being done by the motel operator, not Greenberg Gibbons,” she said.
Schiffer did not specify when demolition of the property would begin.
Sandy Washington, the executive director of LifeStyles of Maryland, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people in need of human services, said the company is currently dealing with 40 families who have reached out to LifeStyles to find different means of shelter.
“We have a number of other families we’re as- sessing needs for,” she said. “We’ve got to figure out if they’re eligible for rental assistance.”
LifeStyles has been in contact with motel management, Washing- ton said, and have been working with other motels in the area, including the Cadillac Motel across the border in Prince George’s County, to try and find different means of housing resi- dents in need.
Everyone knew this would be “inevitable,” Washington said, but that still does not make the situation any less dire or difficult to deal with.
“We’re taken aback a little. We knew this was going to happen at some point. But the other part of it is that we thought we would have some time to work with these families prior to now,” Washington said. “There are just a number of chil- dren and families we’re working with as well as individuals. We’re mov- ing as quickly as we can.”
There is already a shortage of affordable housing in the community for people to choose from, she said. But LifeStyles will continue working to put together plans for the short range to keep people “somewhat stable” in their transitions, she said.
That includes working with the county government, Washington not- ed. They have been in touch with the county’s Department of Community Services in an effort to provide families with more resources.
Haywood Evans, the director of community ser- vices for the county, said the county is concerned about the potentially displaced residents and their concerns “remain in the forefront” of county issues.
“We continue to address these matters by supplying referrals to those impacted and coordinating with one of our longstanding com- munity partners, LifeStyles Inc.,” Evans said.
County Commissioners’ President Peter Murphy (D) said as it gets closer to the time people are expected to leave the property, “you start to hear more concerns.”
“People haven’t been able to relocate,” Mur- phy said. “Some are still trying to do that. We’ve been able to find space to help at least three eli- gible families.”
Murphy said the county is still working with LifeStyles to put people in contact with food pantries and helping them apply for emergency assistance programs, which helps take care of mortgage foreclosures and evictions.
The Charles County Board of Commissioners may look into bring- ing forward some sort of support for residents as they make this transition as well, Murphy said.
Washington said the more help in this situation, the better the results will be. For those who are still in need and searching for help, “the best thing is to contact us so we can know where they are,” she said.
“We can’t promise housing. Our Safe Nights is at capacity every night. Our houses are full,” Washington said. “But what we’re trying to do is make arrangements. There are resources. There are federal dollars ... We want to be able to get these folks placed as quickly as possible.”
Kirsten Meehan, a county resident who lived in and out of the motel in 2012, said she has mixed feelings about the motel falling out as a piece of the community. The building has been around for decades, she said, and has provided people in need with shelter. At the same time, the property has recently struggled with tenants participating in crime and drug use.
“It’s a back-and-forth feeling,” she said. “I don’t know. It kind of helps people who don’t have money like that.”
Fortunately, Meehan said, she was able to get back on her feet financially and stay out of the motel. But she has friends who have not been as fortunate and were still depending on it.
There are other motels in the area, she said, but many face the same issues as the Waldorf Motel and are not always the safest places. But at the end of the day, Meehan noted, “People need somewhere to stay.”
Washington said anyone who is still looking for options should call 301-609-9900, ext. 213. If it’s in the evening, she said, ask for the on-call person.
“Let’s just pray we can get all of these folks placed,” she said.
The Waldorf Motel and Restaurant sits empty in its last days as an establishment on Thursday. Tenants must be out of the motel by today, Feb. 1, per order of new property owner Greenberg Gibbons.