Owner of Gateway Inn, a last hope hotel, hands eviction notices to families, elderly.
By Barbara Zaragoza
All occupants residing at the 40-room Gateway Inn received a 60-day termination notice on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016. The hotel, located one block from the U.S.-Mexico border, is a single room occupancy (SRO) hotel known to provide units to those who might otherwise be homeless.
The owner of the property, listed in public documents as Francis Lin, submitted a permit to the City of San Diego to demolish the two-story hotel, according to the San Diego Development Services Department. However, the permit – filed on Jan. 13, 2016 – has not yet been approved.
Rachel, an occupant of the Gateway Inn says, “Sixty days is not enough time…In my case, I have nine children. There’s not somebody that’s just going to take us in.”
Rachel’s children are between the ages of almost 14 to almost 1. Some of her children attend Willow Elementary and San Ysidro Middle School. She lives in a one room apartment with no kitchen. She has to provide her own refrigerator and cooks using a skillet and microwave. She explains that the building is in terrible condition. Broken windows are never fixed. Two months ago her entire room flooded because of the air conditioning. The walls were full of mildew and she had to throw away several bags of clothes. When she moved into another room, the previous one had to be boarded up.
Her new room isn’t much better. Cement is trapped in the pipes of her bathroom sink. “The smell in my house is terrible, not because my house is dirty. It’s because the sink stinks. The walls in the bathroom, no matter how many times you scrub it, the darkness off of it will not come off.”
Rachel explains that an older disabled gentleman and his elderly wife will be evicted. Several mothers with children will have to find new housing also, displacing about 20 children.
Another occupant, Jesusa, is a school bus driver who has lived at the Gateway Inn for almost three years. Her husband was deported and she spends most of her weekends in Tijuana. The location of the Gateway Inn is important because it’s close to the border, so she can visit her husband frequently. If her car breaks down, she can also use the trolley or the bus. Schools are nearby, although there is no Walmart or grocery store in close proximity.
Jesusa explains that her apartment isn’t in very good condition either: “The tub, the water doesn’t have pipes and it goes out to the dirt.”
Tenants of the Gateway Inn pay $600 per month to rent a room. Jesusa explains that she owns a car and must pay an additional $250 per month to park her car.
Rachel, whose husband is a construction worker and certified welder, was deported five years ago in Tracy, California. She says if he was able to come back to the United States, they would both get on their feet within a month. She sees him only when she can get a ride over to Tijuana because she doesn’t own a car. She wants to remain in San Ysidro and near the border, so she can remain in close to him.
“I don’t drink. I don’t do drugs. I don’t do anything but try to take care of my kids to the maximum. I sell my clothes. I go and recycle during the day when my kids are at school, if I can’t make it at the end of the month. Anything that it takes for my children to be OK. And … for them to take our home from us, it’s not right.”