GAINESVILLE, Ga. (AP) — A northeast Georgia city could tighten rules limiting how long someone can stay in a hotel, prompting concerns about harms to people who would otherwise be homeless.
The Gainesville Planning and Appeals Board recently recommended in a split vote that the Gainesville City Council limit people to staying 15 days at a time in a regular hotel and 30 days at a time in an extended stay hotel.
The Times of Gainesville reports those limits are already used to describe hotels in zoning regulations. But new rules would require hotels to keep detailed records including phone numbers, home addresses and government-issued identification from all guests. City police or code enforcement would have authority to examine records or search rooms. People would have to wait two weeks between stays. A hotel, but not guests, could be penalized if people stay past the limit.
One hotel resident said he’s been living in a hotel for two years. Donald Croupat said he works 65 hours a week at two jobs, but hasn’t been able to save enough to move into more permanent housing.
“What you’re planning is just going to hurt people like me,” he said.
The proposed regulations come a year after Gainesville banned “urban camping” — living or sleeping in public spaces. The city has also banned new homeless shelters in one part of town.
Advocates say the new rules could further destabilize the lives of the homeless.
Ursula Harris, a social worker for the Gainesville city schools, said the district has an estimated 341 homeless students, with about 60 students typically living in hotels and 60 in shelters.
“The age of their children will disqualify them from staying at the shelter. There are also difficulties for families who have students who have behavioral disabilities,” Harris said. “If you have young children and they are not school-age, you can’t stay at the shelter during the day.”
Michael Fisher, housing manager with Ninth District Opportunity, said the area already has a shortage of affordable housing.
“These hotels are a final refuge for many of these individuals and families,” Fisher said. “Where are we going to put them? Are we just going to give them freedom to live on the street? … Being poor is not a crime.”
Hotel owners and managers told the board that some guests stay for months while working on construction or other projects.
“These guys stay three, six, nine months at times,” said Jay Singh, owner of The Guest Lodge. “It’s just not practical for them to move hotels every 15 days.”
Matt Tate, the city’s deputy director of community and economic development, said the goal of the regulations isn’t to displace anyone, but to keep hotels safe from concerns such as fire hazards. He said city staff would adjust the proposal before the City Council votes Dec. 17, but said stay limits are unlikely to change.
Information from: The Times, http://www.gainesvilletimes.com