UPDATE: Judge delays evictions for homeless hotel residents

Posted at 7:32 AM, Sep 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-14 07:33:22-04

Homeless people living at a Lansing hotel have at least two more weeks before they get kicked out. On Tuesday an Ingham County Judge extended a temporary restraining order the city requested, giving them more time to help 91 homeless people staying there find new homes.

The city started that process two weeks ago when the hotel first told everyone to leave so it could close for renovations, but says it's going to take closer to 3 months to relocate the residents.

"There was a time before the Magnuson, there will be a time after the Magnuson. We just have to wait and see," said Mike Karl, President of the Homeless Angels who runs a shelter out of the hotel.

Karls says he wants to compromise with the owners, since finding new places on such short notice isn't easy.

"Did I ever think that the hotel would close? Maybe, maybe," Karl added. "We do need more supportive transitional housing opportunities as well as more affordable housing in the city of Lansing."

It's a problem defense attorney JoAnne Gurley, who represents the hotel owners, says doesn't fall on her clients.

"My client did not create this problem," Gurley said in court. "He has tried to assist the community but now it is time for the city of Lansing to take its head out of the sand and to step up and help the people."

Gurley argued as the Homeless Angels' shelter grew, so did the hotel's utility bills, a cost the owners can't afford.

"There were 18 rooms initially that were allotted for the Homeless Angels to have people stay in the hotel and that has exploded to 59 rooms," Gurley said.

The city says the issue comes down to equity and having enough time to find suitable housing for the residents, especially since 97 percent of Lansing's subsidized housing is full.

"To identify a two week time period was humanly impossible and possibly one of the most overwhelming tasks that I've faced in my 10 years with the city," said Lansing's Director of Human Relations and Community Services Joan Jackson Johnson.

'Our goal is to place as many people as possible but to place them at a place that we know they can maintain. We're shooting for subsidized housing because it's more affordable given what they've paid."

Mayor Virg Bernero's emergency housing declaration gives Manguson tenants priority in federally-funded shelter space and it is helping get them into subsidized housing. As of Tuesday the city has lined up housing for 20 of the homeless people staying at the Magnuson, and they should be able to move by the end of the week.

As far as the Magnuson goes re-opening as a shelter Jackson Johnson says she doesn't support that.

"Kids should never ever be packed into a situation like this," she said. "When you're talking about 6-8 people in one room, one bed--that's not humane, that's not the kind of life we want to offer residents."

Karl is counting Monday's decision a small victory, only pushing him to help more people get off the streets.

"No building will stop me from doing what we've done before it will only help me find another place," he added.

Another hearing is set for two weeks when the city say it will be asking the judge to delay the evictions for at least three months.