For 15 years, Leon Elkins has counted on the King’s Inn Motor Hotel for both a roof and a job. The 62-year-old has worked as a security guard to offset the cost of living in the building.
That’s changing. Avi Schwalb and his son, Shaun, took over the hotel on East Colfax Avenue in Aurora earlier this month. The new owners raised rates for many residents, more than doubling them in at least one case. Elkins says Shaun Schwalb also told him his work was no longer needed and that he would have to start paying $2,400 a month for two rooms he shares with his wife and their dogs.
For Elkins, the rate increase could be a way out of the King's Inn. Every day, he scours the internet for a rent-to-own house.
But Megan Vizina, executive director at The Colfax Community Network, says the rate of increases and evictions at the King's Inn could push other residents into homelessness. Her non-profit works with permanent motel residents in Aurora, many of whom are children.
“It is only a matter of time before these motels are no longer places of refuge for people,” she says. “What is happening at the King’s [Inn] is one of my nightmares. I have no doubt that it is the first of many.”
Vizina says two residents moved onto the streets earlier this month. She says daily costs have climbed at other motels along Colfax Avenue over the last few years.
In other cases, development has forced motels to shut down. Vizina notes that three large motels where families lived also closed as a medical complex grew up in the Fitzsimons area. As neighborhoods boom all around East Colfax, she expects more motels to follow suit, forcing their residents to relocate.
Aurora's city council recently approved $40,000 of marijuana tax revenue to help motel residents transition to new housing. The Colfax Community Network launched a separate fundraising campaign for residents of the King's Inn. The money is meant to help families pay for their deposits and their first month's rent at new homes.
She says it's a start, but Aurora needs far more shelter beds and transitional housing to prevent a spike in homelessness. Vizina spoke with Colorado Matters host Andrea Dukakis about the King’s Inn and why she sees the changes there as a warning sign for Aurora.