Spurred on by antifa and other openly socialist organizations, a homeless group has taken over a Travelodge motel in Fife, WA, just outside of Tacoma. The squatters booked 16 rooms for Christmas eve and have since refused to leave. As many as 40 trespassers are rumored to be part of the occupation. The group, Tacoma Housing Now, is demanding that the county pay the bill. They argue that the motel has been mostly empty as of late and those rooms weren’t being booked otherwise.
Dozens of supporters have converged on the scene in an effort to block any eviction attempt and possibly turn the area into another autonomous zone. Elected officials are negotiating with the group, and there are conflicting reports as to whether or not the hotel manager has asked for police assistance.
On Christmas Eve the Tacoma Housing Now coalition moved a group of homeless people into the Travelodge. The motel had many vacancies.
On Dec. 25, organizers told the owner that they were not going to continue paying. A large group of supporters gathered outside the motel and held a holiday party.
The owner of the motel negotiated with the activists and agreed to allow them to stay until Dec. 28. He also stated his desire to provide emergency pandemic housing to homeless people and struggle along with THN to be paid by the city or county for this service.
On Dec. 26, about 50 supporters celebrated this victory and rallied next to the motel.
On Dec. 28, as the number of homeless people staying in the motel increased, even more supporters coming from Portland, Olympia and Seattle, as well as Tacoma, gathered at the south end of the motel parking lot. At about 10:20 a.m., the Fife chief of police arrived and talked to THN organizers. As reported to the crowd, the police chief said he wanted to resolve the situation and find another place for the homeless residents of the Travelodge. Supporters shouted out that this could be a ruse to get people to leave the motel and that nobody should exit until they had room keys in hand for a new location.
Supporters had shown up prepared to block an eviction but it looked like the people at the motel had won at least one more day. THN organizer Arrow stated: “Our first goal in this action was to keep these folks out of the cold — some of whom have serious medical conditions and for whom we care very deeply. We only expected to get one day and now we are on day four. Goal number two has been to get the owner paid by the city to provide emergency pandemic housing.”
Arrow explained that Tacoma Housing Now has other demands, including the creation of a Community Land Trust to turn city-owned land into housing for the houseless and to defund the police and use that money to meet peoples’ needs.
Antifa “news” site It’s Going Down takes some of the credit for the occupation, reporting:
We’re currently in the unique position of allying with the hotel owner, because we’ve made it clear to him that we want to get him paid. We’ve started contacting city council members and will contact the rest of the city council and county council tomorrow, so CARES and/or FEMA money can be used to pay for hotel rooms.
While the City of Tacoma claims to provide hotel vouchers for houseless people, nobody we’ve talked to has ever seen these mysterious vouchers. Other, smaller towns in our county are paying for hotel rooms, so Tacoma should, too. Our message is that there’s room at the inn: pay for it!
Mainstream KIRO 7 reports:
Monday night, as volunteers from Tacoma Housing Now brought in food and supplies for more than 40 homeless people now occupying the 16 rooms, they told KIRO 7 many of them were at risk of dying in the freezing weather when they were brought in from bridges and encampments.
But motel manager Shawn Randhawa, told Fife Police and the City Manager, the motel is a struggling small family business with 10 employees, which was already devastated by the pandemic. When he was told the group refused to pay for their rooms, he told the city manager he may have to pull the plug on the entire business.
“They may have to close up shop because with no revenues coming in, with their margins where they are, they may have to close operations,” said Fife City Manager Hyun Kim. “So, I’m trying to buy some time. It starts with conversations with both sides.”
Kim said the city of Fife is quickly negotiating with other advocacy groups to find another place for the 43 people to find shelter and services.
Tacoma Housing Now is the group that broke into the abandoned and condemned Gault Middle School building in Tacoma and moved homeless people inside last November. After explaining the air in the building was toxic, Tacoma police moved in that night and moved the group out.
But this time, the group told the owner they will continue to occupy rooms in the Travelodge.
“This is a societal issue” said Kim. “We have to start the dialogue, but this kind of confrontation, this kind of being splashy about how to get this moving forward is going to lead to more distrust on both sides.”
Fife Police Chief Peter Fisher told KIRO 7 the group is clearly committing theft and criminal trespassing, but the owner has not asked for the group to be forcibly removed.
“We’re very fortunate in that the business owner, though strapped and wondering if day to day if he can even stay in business, is willing to work with us,” Fisher said. “The last thing we want to do is have 40 people in this cold weather kicked back out into the street without any resources.”
“I’m just devastated,” he [Randhawa] told The News Tribune. “Because of the protest, I have nothing else. I was barely getting through this pandemic, and now this. This Christmas, the Grinch came.”
Fife Police Chief Pete Fisher said the group is trespassing. Rather than use force to remove the people, he wants to work with the organization.
“We’re trying to see if we can work out a resolution without having to take law enforcement action,” Fisher said. “We’re talking about people with medical issues, cold weather that are homeless. So we are trying to work with our neighboring agencies to see what we can do in the form of relief, relief or temporary shelter.”
Pierce County said they are looking into this but they have not been in discussions with Tacoma Housing Now.
Randhawa said he feels the group isn’t giving him a choice and he doesn’t feel supported by the police or the city. He said there was destruction of property when one of the doors was broken after he locked a motel room.
“They are keeping me hostage. No one is out to help me,” he said. “It’s complete lawlessness in the city of Fife.”
If the situation does not change in a few days, Randhawa said he will abandon the property and his 15 employees will stop showing up.
“I’ll have to lock the doors. and if the city won’t kick them out, they can have it,” he said. “I’ll shut off the water and I’m not fighting with these people. I believe there should be a law.”
The organization took over Gault Middle School in November to house those experiencing homelessness, but left after Tacoma police threatened to make arrests.
Video report by the Tacoma News Tribune:
More than 40 homeless folks are occupying this Travelodge in the Tacoma/Fife area. Advocates say its up to Pierce County to pay for their housing in dangerously cold temps. The motel owner says if something isn’t done he may be forced out of business. pic.twitter.com/4oQIMuTkRR
— John Hopperstad (@JohnHopperstad) December 29, 2020
[BREAKING] Due to the City of Tacoma and Pierce County’s Refusal to Do Their Jobs, Tacoma Housing Now Organizers Are Risking Their Lives
Positive Covid Cases Confirmed at the Travelodge Hotel pic.twitter.com/oAmPKXfHKL
— Tacoma Housing Now (@TacHousing) December 29, 2020