Saturday, February 19, 2011
Their Playground--and Home--Gone
The Oglethorpe Inn, off the exit ramp in the decimated carpet industry town of Calhoun, GA, is like one of thousands of nondescript motels peeking at our nation's Interstate highway system. Gordon County, sitting in northwest Georgia, where 1 in 10 school children are reported to be homeless, has no shelter for those without. So the 2-story motel became "home" for about 80 people who lost the keys to their own places.
And now the kids and their families are forced to involuntarily check out of their 12' x12' abodes to search for a safe place to sleep, do homework, play, and keep their stuff. Good luck with that.
According to an Atlanta Journal Constitution story, the previous owners of the motel, a partnership between the area's congressman and the state's lead Republican senator, Tich Hospitality, took out a $2.2 mil loan to buy and rehab the motel, but payments apparently stopped and they turned over ownership to Mr. Edens. The local bank is suing the legislators for, ahem, nonpayment.
If Mr. Edens is the same guy we heard about while we were in Calhoun a couple weeks ago, he was trying to help "guests" of his motel according to Shawn, one of the guys staying there. Shawn spoke of kindnesses shown to people who couldn't always pay on time. That was before Mr. Edens disappeared like a Wisconsin Democratic lawmaker.
While Pat and I were parked outside the Oglethorpe, I noticed several kids playing in the parking lot. Hmmm. Not vacation time. Talking to Shawn and Dan, two guys who know homelessness firsthand, they confirmed that several homeless families lived in the motel, along with a bunch of single adults.
Kids can adapt to many circumstances. Resilience is a good thing. Testing that resilience, forcing them to move yet again, to leave their playmates in this inadvertent community, might be pushing it. Worse yet, when the community has no shelter, it can only get very ugly for the kids and adults.
Seems to me the assumedly well-off legislators who may have profited by their seemingly sleazy dealings could step up and put a roof over the heads of their again-displaced constituents. That might assure votes in the next election.