Councilmembers propose leasing Antioch motel for homeless, possible FEMA trailer site

The Executive Inn on E. 18th Street. Photos by Allen Payton

Up to $1 million annual price tag

By Allen Payton

An idea first proposed seven years ago, by a then-homeless Antioch man, Rafael Scott and the late Mike Pollard, of the Golden Hills Community Church’s Community Outreach Center (COC) to use the unrented motel rooms at the Executive Inn, located next door at 515 E. 18th Street, received a breath of new life, Tuesday. Antioch Councilman Lamar Thorpe and Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts, joined by advocates and representatives of ministries and other non-profit organizations serving the homeless in Antioch, announced on Tuesday a proposal to have the city lease the entire 32-room motel to serve as transitional housing.

Antioch Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts speaks during the press conference.

Thorpe said he was making the proposal “as a member of the transitional housing task force (the new name for the Antioch City Council’s Homeless Encampment Task Force), with Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts” and “working with our business community.”

“It was her vision, her idea,” he said. “So, she’s the reason we are here, today.”

“We started this journey almost two years ago. We really didn’t have any idea what we were getting into,” Motts said. “Homelessness is a very complex issues affecting many, many people. We did much, much research.”

“We were spending millions and millions of dollars moving people from one place to the next,” Motts stated. “It’s affecting our commercial businesses and our quality of life. We received trailers from the state we’re still trying to find a location for. I’m so thankful to the owners of the Executive Inn…to provide transitional housing…to get people off the streets. 97% who get into housing stay there.”

We are very fortunate to have a local hotel willing to work with the city to house people on a transitional basis,” Thorpe said.

Owner Summer Desai interviewed by a KPFA radio reporter in one of the rooms with a single king-size bed.

Summer and Jyoti Desai have owned the motel since 2004.

“The county voucher program lasts 16 days at a discounted rate year-round,” Summer shared. “The voucher is good for 16 days once a year. It’s mainly for jobless and homeless. It’s only temporary.”

They Desais work with the county’s action team for mental health services, with Red Cross and the Contra Costa Crisis Center, for people in crisis due to a fire or flooding of their home. They also work with Shelter, Inc.

“A lot of churches place their people, here,” he said. They work with the Golden Hills’ COC, next door to temporarily place people in the motel rooms, and allow them use the lot for parking.

A few years ago, Golden Hills Community Church expressed an interest in buying the motel, but the asking price of $3 million was too much. When asked if he knew about the councilmembers’ proposal, Scott said, “No. I just wish Mike were here to know about it.” Pollard passed away on Monday, July 6th. But, his and Scott’s idea may just soon be more than realized depending upon the vote of the city council. Their three-page plan proposed using the unrented rooms, which at that time were running about 40% of the motel’s occupancy, at a discounted rate for homeless individuals, as long as they were in a program at the COC to help them with such things as substance abuse problems.

The plan now is for the city to rent all the rooms at a discount, and connect those staying there with programs and services to help get them into permanent housing and mainstreamed back into society. Those staying at the motel could be there for as long as six months, Thorpe stated.

“I don’t have any problem people, here,” Summer shared. They pay a daily rate. We provide them service every day cleaning the rooms and beds. We are the only hotel that is pet friendly.”

Thorpe introduced others in attendance at the press conference. Including “our friends from Shelter, Inc. We have Love Never Fails. We have Michael Gabriel representing the downtown businesses that have been affected; Nichole Gardner, a leading advocate for homelessness in Antioch, Extended Hands Ministry, Patrice Guillory from Health Right 360 for people who have been previously incarcerated.

“This is a call to action to all East County cities. We can’t rely on the county to do all of this work,” Thorpe stated.

Nichole Gardner of Facing Homelessness in Antioch said, “I’m excited to see the city trying to do something for our homeless out on the streets. We need to get people off the streets and be productive members of society. She thanked the council members and motel owners. Mariah Williams was also in attendance representing Facing Homelessness in Antioch.

Vanessa Russell, the founder and executive director of Love Never Fails which focuses on human trafficking in Northern California, spoke next.

“Human trafficking is coming to Antioch,” she stated. “To get people housing is the right thing. Many men and women are sold online. We came into contact with two people who were being sold right here, in this area out of their hotel room.”

Russell spoke of the effort, “to come to these specific areas where people are being exploited…to provide them food, stabilization, counseling, services. IT training to give them sustainable jobs. Not giving them fish but teaching them to fish on a daily basis.”

“She has made a commitment that she will provide some sort of wrap around services,” Thorpe shared.

Patrice Guillory of HealthRIGHT360 which focuses on health, housing and services for homeless and those who are formerly incarcerated, spoke next, saying “Our mission is to give hope and change lives.”

They’ve helped 120 people this year struggling with homelessness and other challenges.

One of the rooms with two queen size beds.

“There’s no greater time than now to tackle the problem of homelessness in Antioch,” she said. “Individuals with a history of incarceration are 10 times more likely to be homeless. Our over reliance on law enforcement is not only ineffective but wholly inefficient.”

Long time resident of Antioch and downtown business owner, Michael Gabrielson said, “We’ve been there for almost five years…we’ve seen the despair of homelessness in Antioch. This will be an improvement not only in their lives but in the community’s lives.”

“This type of transitional housing will give them support, reestablish themselves and get into permanent housing,” he continued. “If each city would take an initiative like this it would have a huge impact on our community.”

“We’re taking this to the city council, to give direction to our city manager for the potential long term lease of the entire building, all 32 rooms, plus the suites…so the homeless providers can work,” Thorpe explained. “Summer is also offering to allow the five FEMA trailers to be located on the property.”

“The initial costs are a little north of $1 million,” he shared. “But that is nothing compared to what we spend chasing people from corner to corner. It’s not working. So, we’re proposing this.”

Asked about the 16-day limit for vouchers from the county Thorpe responded, “Our goal, in generalities and principles…everyone is on a different path. Some people may be here for only a week before they find housing with relatives. What we don’t want to do is have a set policy of 16 days and tell them to get their life together overnight.”

Asked how many homeless we have in Antioch Motts said, “the last count we had 300 but with all the students and families we probably have 600.”

The Golden Hills COC, located next door, has been working with homeless and those in need in Antioch for the past 20 years. Asked why no one from the COC was included in the press conference, Motts said, “We’re going to be working with them, the pastor here already serves meals in the community for the unhoused. We’re also speaking with Loaves and Fishes. Sutter Delta is fully committed to helping.”

“This is like the governor’s turnkey program,” she explained. “We’re hoping the state will support it.”

Asked about a budget that could be approved on July 28 so the program can immediately move forward, Thorpe responded, “we can set a cap of how much.”

The next council meeting will be held online on Tuesday, July 28 beginning at 7:00 p.m. Watch it via livestream on the city’s website or on Comcast cable Channel 24 or AT&T U-verse channel 99.

If you wish to make a public comment, you may do so any of the following ways: (1) by filling out an online speaker card, located at https://www.antiochca.gov/speaker_card, (2) by emailing the City Clerk prior to or during the meeting at cityclerk@ci.antioch.ca.us, or (3) by dialing (925) 776-3057 during the meeting.

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Two bed room


MPT Joy Motts speaks


Owner Summer Desai interviewed


Executive Inn


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