Williamsburg's Homeless & Indigent

P.O. Box 366, Lightfoot, VA 23090
Office: 757-561-3255
"Assisting people in re-gaining hope and a better way of life."

Tuesday, October 28, 2003


Beach doesn’t want its rich hotel guests sent packing

The Virginian-Pilot
© October 28, 2003

Exquisite timing, wouldn’t you say?

A story in Sunday’s Virginian-Pilot revealed that just as innkeepers are placing mints on the pillows of media guests — in town for the six-week sniper trial — Virginia Beach officials are considering a ban on hotel stays that last longer than 30 days.

Of course city honchos don’t want to send those guests packing. They’re welcome to stay until their expense accounts run dry.

The city would like to dislodge poor people, however. Those unfortunates who hole up in cheap hotels for the winter and don’t leave until rates — and temperatures — rise in the spring.

Hmmmm. The timing of this news not only points out the obvious unintended consequences of such a boneheaded city ordinance, but it also presents a legal conundrum. How could the Beach craft a law that would evict low-income lodgers after 30 days but allow people with Platinum Visa cards to stay longer?

This will have ’em working overtime in the city attorney’s office.

If the plan gets that far, that is. City officials who were interviewed for Sunday’s story were quick to say that this is not a formal proposal right now.

It’s simply a bad idea.

Heck, why not simply adopt a city ordinance making it illegal to be poor in Virginia Beach?

With all the euphemistic talk lately about “blighted” Beach borough neighborhoods and the pressing need for the City Council to have a Redevelopment and Housing Authority to spruce up the area around the new convention center, one thing is becoming painfully apparent: The shabby set is an impediment to the revitalization of the resort area.

I phoned Dick Powell, executive director of the Judeo-Christian Outreach Center, first thing Monday for his take on this 30-day limit.

Mr. Powell gave a wry chuckle.

“Living in hotels is very expensive,” Mr. Powell conceded. “But all I can say is it’s better than living on the streets. “There’s simply no place for some of these people to go.”

Powell’s shelter, which feeds hundreds but houses only 50, hung out the no vacancy sign long ago. The waiting list for overnight accommodations now stands at 80 and will grow as the temperatures drop.

Where do those on the waiting list wait? Some bunk with relatives. Others sleep in their cars. Still others camp in the woods.

The lucky ones — those with a little cash — go to hotels.

Mr. Powell said that before the city outlaws extended hotel stays, it should consider helping the Judeo-Christian Outreach Center move to a larger location, where it could house more folks.

“How can the city even think about building a theater that’s going to cost about $60 million to serve a very small percentage of the people, when they won’t spend a couple of million to help house the homeless?” he asked.

How, indeed.

The city wants the JCOC to abandon its location on 17th Street. Seems the shelter and soup kitchen is uncomfortably close to the revitalization area. That’s fine with Powell and company; they outgrew their landlocked location years ago.

But the land they covet is pricey. Moving the shelter to a 2.87 acre parcel of land that is on the market and away from the convention center corridor will cost somewhere between $800,000 and $900,000.

That’s a lot of dough for a shelter to raise. But for a city with $202 million to lavish on a convention center, it’s mere municipal pocket change.

Truth is, there is a problem with low-income housing at the Beach. There isn’t enough of it. Once the tourists leave town and the skies turn the color of aluminum foil, Oceanfront hotels become temporary homes for the working poor.

It’s far from ideal, especially for the schoolkids living in such cramped quarters. City officials ought to explore ways to help these folks find a better digs.

But booting them out of hotels after 30 days won’t solve anything. It will simply create ragged bands of nomads every month. The timing of this news really isn’t exquisite at all. With winter coming and the hotels filling with indigent families, it’s just plain cold.


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