Editor's note: Contact7 seeks out audience tips and feedback to help people in need, resolve problems and hold the powerful accountable. If you know of a community need our call center could address, or have a story idea for our investigative team to pursue, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (720) 462-7777. Find more Contact7 stories here.
DENVER -- The city of Denver's Motel Task Force shutdown the Western Motor Inn last week after finding numerous health, safety and fire violations including not a single-working smoke detector and a visible bed bug infestation.
"She was just robbing poor people," said former tenant Amy Felicianna.
Felicianna said she was forced to live at the motel for three months this summer because it was the only place she and her family could afford.
"It's filthy, dirty, it's so embarrassing. I'm embarrassed and ashamed that I had to live there," she said. "Week after week, Monday after Monday, we are handing this lady $400 a week. We're living with roaches, we're living with mice running across the floor."
Felicianna showed us a picture of what she said her daughter looked like after sleeping one night at the motel. She woke up with welts all over her body.
"Getting bit up pretty bad, every night," she said. "Nobody deserves to live like that."
"I'm not surprised at all, I'm angry it took them so long, what took so long?" she said.
The city said it has previously inspected the motel and found issues in need of compliance. Last week's inspection was their second time at the motel, and said they found conditions were much worse than before.
Denver7 confronted the motel's owner Yong Prince who Felicianna said is solely to blame.
"People say you're robbing poor people, people don't want to live here, they're living here because they can afford to live anywhere else," said Denver7 Reporter Jennifer Kovaleski.
"That's not true," said Prince. "Rooms are in really good condition."
"I've been in them, they're not in really good condition. The city doesn't just shut down a motel for no reason," said Kovaleski.
"The rooms are nice," said Prince.
While the owner refused to acknowledge any issues at her motel, Prince said they are working to bring the motel up to compliance and fix the smoke detectors she said aren't her fault because the tenants took them.
"What if there was a fire, people could have died because you didn't have working smoke detectors," asked Kovaleski.
"I put them in every room," responded Prince.
"The city says there wasn't a single working smoke detector, how can you deny that?" asked Kovaleski.
"They took them out," said Prince.
"The city didn't take them out," said Kovaleski.
"No, the people living there did," said Prince.
For Felicianna, she is one of the lucky ones. She secured transitional housing right before the city got involved, but still wonders why it took so long.
"How was she allowed to take our money? Everybody's money? And just let us live like this just because we're poor, just because we're struggling," said Felicianna.
The owner of the motel also told Denver7 once the motel reopens and is brought up to compliance, she will offer customers, who want to come back, a free week of rent. The discount is only being offered to customers who were staying at the motel when it was shut down.
The city said there are still several issues that need to be fixed before they will allow Prince to reopen.