Aurora creates emergency fund for families facing eviction and rent hikes at Colfax motel

$40,000 will be used to help secure housing

AURORA, Colo. -- A housing crisis and new ownership at an East Colfax motel nearly resulted in 100 families being forced out onto the street.

"It has really made everybody hyper aware that this is the condition families all along Colfax, all the way to the mountains are living in," said Shelley McKittrick, Aurora's Homeless Program Director.

The City of Aurora went into crisis management mode when the new owner of the King's Inn Motel almost doubled rents and started handing out evictions. Since Denver7's first story, Aurora City Council approved a $40,000 emergency fund to help these residents transition into more permanent housing.

"It is no place to have a stable solid life where you have the same rights as other folks so they have no rights, they evidently can be evicted on the spot," said McKittrick.

Last week, city officials scrambled to meet with motel management because they feared many people would end up homeless. The motel owner made a promise to the city and Denver7 cameras that he would hold off on raising rent for 30 days. The owner also agreed to stop handing out evictions but that didn't happen.

After Denver7's Liz Gelardi left, several residents called her to say they received notices. One of those residents is Amy Berry. She has lived at the motel for nearly two years with her family -- six people living together crammed in one room.

This week Berry has hope, thanks to all the help she is receiving from the city and various agencies. Aurora's emergency fund will be used to provide the motel residents with down payment assistance and first month's rent on an apartment.

Berry recently toured a three-bedroom apartment and filled out a rental application. The process brought her to tears.

"We went to this apartment and my kids lit up like it was Christmas because we’ve been living in a little small room for over a year," said Berry.

McKittrick said the residents living in the motel had virtually no rights, despite some being there for decades. Both she and Berry believe there should be more protections for everyone who calls a motel home.

"The living situation that we were in needs to not be in a gray area," said Berry.

She also adds that many people end up living in motels because they have don't have any other options.

"Whether it be background checks, credit history, a mistake you made 20 years ago," said Berry.

In the meantime, she is living in a different hotel while she waits to see if she will get the apartment of her dreams. Another family is moving into an apartment on Thursday.

McKittrick said it may take some time to place all of the residents into appropriate housing. Emergency funds and service providers will step in to fill the gap.

"It was a crisis and it still is a crisis, we day-to-day don’t know how the new owner is going to work with us, it kind of changes day-to-day and these families could get their three-day notices at any time," said McKittrick.

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