ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Rotting wooden beams support walk ways of Superior Creek Lodge.

Photo Gallery

Agencies scramble to find housing for displaced residents, some motels turn people away

Betsy Caster just wanted to take a shower.

She hadn't taken one since she was forced to leave her room in Superior Creek Lodge on Thursday. Earlier that day, East Ridge officials condemned all four buildings of the extended-stay motel because structural deficiencies were a "danger to human life or safety," the city said. Caster, her two grandchildren and a friend were among the 1,500 people and 300 families kicked out of their homes.

The East Ridge United Methodist Church took in several families, including Caster's. They have their own room and the church feeds them. Grateful for everything the church has done, Caster wanted one more thing.

"I came in today and asked, 'Is there any way I could take a shower?'" Caster said. "And they said, 'Oh yeah.'"

She didn't have soap or shampoo, so the church gave her some.

"I never knew a shower could feel so good," she said with a smile.

Anna Katharine Horne, stability navigator of Metropolitan Ministries, spent Thursday night finding motels for displaced residents to stay in thanks to a $15,000 grant from the Community Foundation.

However, she said some motels refused to take in people from Superior Creek Lodge, even though they had vacant rooms. Horne wouldn't name specific motels that declined, but said several East Ridge establishments turned her down because they were afraid of their rooms being trashed.

"Multiple times I said, 'Name your price,'" Horne said. "It was pretty disheartening in the moment."

Horne had money but couldn't find motels to take it. As the sun set and a line of people forced into homelessness still didn't have anywhere to go, Horne didn't know if she would find rooms for everybody.

Superior Creek Lodge has been plagued by drugs and crime in the past. In 2010, the city of East Ridge filed a petition for the complex to be closed, saying it was a "public nuisance."

Attorney Jerry Summers has represented Superior Creek Lodge since that suit in 2010. He admitted when the suit was filed, the complex had issues with crime and drugs. But Summers said after the city complained, management spent between $400,000 and $500,000 on security.

"Things were changed a lot from 2010," he said.

Caster lived in Superior Creek Lodge for four months before Thursday. She lived in the complex a few years ago, too. She said in the past, you could walk down the hall and smell all the different drugs. But in her latest stint in the complex, Casper said the atmosphere was better and safer.

"A lot of the people that are there are good people," Summers said. "There are bad people wherever you go."

In the Superior Creek Lodge parking lot Thursday night, Horne wasn't looking at criminals — she saw scared families with small children that didn't have anywhere to go.

Eventually she found accepting motels, and everybody Horne is aware of who sought help from Metropolitan Ministries was helped.

"We didn't look anybody in the eye and say, 'No,'" Horne said.

These are temporary fixes, though.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday at East Ridge United Methodist Church, several agencies will hold a Joint Information Center. If people want to apply for long-term housing, agencies can help them with initial deposits. Horne encourages anyone with questions or wanting help to attend the meeting.

"There's a big question for the city here," Horne said. "What are these people supposed to do?"

Summers said the future of Superior Creek Lodge is up in the air, too.

The complex hired an engineering group to determine what has to be done to fix the buildings. At this point, he doesn't know if there will be repairs to the existing structure or if the buildings will be knocked down.

When Superior Creek Lodge does have a plan, Summers said they'll sit down with East Ridge officials and determine how to proceed.

In the meantime, Caster has applied for a three-bedroom apartment and called about a house for sale. She realized the severity of the situation Friday morning when someone from the health department came to the church and offered her insurance for homeless people.

OK, she thought, but why is he here?

Then it hit her.

"Oh, I'm homeless, aren't I?"

Contact staff writer Evan Hoopfer at ehoopfer@timesfreepress.com or @EvanHoopfer on Twitter or 423-757-6731.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT