In the Spotlight

News & Features
Back on the Street
By Karen Louise Boothe
June 3, 1999
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City officials in Golden Valley shut off the water to a local motel after sending repeated notices to settle old bills. Once the water was shut off, motel management had to turn guests away. Many were clients of a homeless shelter run by Sharing and Caring Hands in Minneapolis.

THE GOLDEN VALLEY INN, located along Olson Memorial Highway in the Twin Cities' suburb of Golden Valley, isn't named on the city's list of accommodations, given to inquiring travelers and vacationers. In fact, the motel is often the only place left on a given night for families who are homeless and unable to find accommodations in emergency shelters.

But Tuesday night, about 150 people - some of whom were sent to the inn by the Sharing and Caring Hands emergency shelter in Minneapolis - found themselves on the streets. Mary Jo Copeland, who runs the emergency shelter, says the closing of the inn means she has fewer places to send overflow clients at a reasonable price.

Copeland:They started out with $37 a day and it was up to $42. I was able to put lots of families. I mean, I was up to eight to nine thousand dollars a week on putting families there. I have hundreds of families that come through here every day, and I am concerned about where they will stay if the county cannot house them and I can't house them. I mean, I can't spend $100 a day at hotels.
But city officials describe the motel in different terms than simply budget accommodations. It's been described as being in a "league of its own" and as an easy place to stop, flop, and drop.

Golden Valley City Manager Bill Joynes says the motel was delinquent on more than $30,000 in utility bills. He says it's also been the source of hundreds calls to the police in the last year.
Joynes: It's a public-safety issue, I mean 300 calls to the property in that period of time for lots of different activities. The neighborhood does not appreciate that. There are not a lot of residences around it, but the ones that are there want to see something happen there in terms of cleaning up the land and use of the property there.
Joynes says Golden Valley city officials will work on the public works issues, but he says Hennepin County law-enforcement authorities are working to address allegations of crime on the property.

Patrick McFarland, head of the Anoka County Community Action Program, says the incident speaks to a much larger problem in the state: the lack of affordable housing and health issues confronting the homeless.
McFarland: There is a whole population in our society who are not rentable to. They have criminal histories, they have been evicted and have destroyed properties. That whole population is just something we haven't addressed.
McFarland says public policy-makers and social-service agencies need to tackle the problems in a more integrated manner. He says the solution is not just finding more emergency shelter space, he says a whole variety of issues ranging from mental health, to conflict resolution to education need to be dealt with.
McFarland: I don't have the solution to that but I know advocates and others are talking about it and the question is how much support services can you provide and what kind of support can you give a family that will result in that family being successful. If you put people in areas that are rife with crime and other stuff, I don't know why we'd be surprised they are not successful.
In Golden Valley, city officials stand by the decision to shut the water off, saying motel management needs to run a better business. Officials say they not only require that utilities are paid on time, but that businesses in Golden Valley provide clean, safe, sanitary facilities to people - even if they're poor or homeless.