LEBANON – Tri-County Community Action told Upper Valley social service providers on Monday that it had stopped referring people receiving support through New Hampshire’s Emergency Assistance Program to Quality Inn off Route 120 in Lebanon On July 28.
This leaves people homeless in the Upper Valley with one less place to go.
“There are more than twenty people on the waiting list for motels in this area,” said Lynn Goodwin, Lebanon’s director of human services. She said the email sent Monday from Tri-County Community Action did not include an explanation as to why referrals were not sent to the Quality Inn.
Goodwin said the Sunset Motor Inn in western Lebanon and the Best Western near the airport are taking a handful of people through ERAP. Outside of Lebanon, she said, Tri-County Community Action is also working with two hotels in Plymouth, New Hampshire. Plymouth is located 40 miles or an hour drive from Lebanon.
Ashok Patel, a Massachusetts-based vice president of hotel management that operates Quality Inn and Best Western, reached by phone Friday, said he wasn’t aware that the Tri-County Community Action Program was no longer referring people to Quality Inn.
“We accept referrals if we have a place available to help with housing,” he said. “…If we are unable to house them, the local Program Authority will make alternative arrangements. If there is no place, I suggest that is a situation on which we cannot comment.”
Patel said he did not believe Lebanon Best Western was accepting ERAP participants.
“We had no need,” Patel said. “No one has contacted us about this hotel.”
Goodwin said Tri-County Community Action informed her and other Upper Valley social service providers on July 19 that Ketan Rawal, general manager of the Quality Inn, would also serve as a homeless outreach worker in Tri-County.
Efforts to reach Rawal by phone and email Friday were unsuccessful, as were efforts to reach the Tri-County Community Action Program and New Hampshire Housing.
Patel said Rawal is a hotel employee. “If he’s helping them with something, I don’t know about him,” Patel said of Rawal’s work at Tri-County.
Heather Griffin, assistant director of programs for Listen, who has been working with clients staying at the Quality Inn, said a shared online list of people waiting for Tri-County-operated emergency shelter that she was able to access disappeared this week. Griffin said that when she asked Tri-County what happened to the list, she was told that “the tech department removed things that weren’t, like, necessary.”
“Now we’re all like, ‘Darn, no one has printed a copy of the hotel queue,'” she said. “Now we have no way of keeping track of that.”
Meanwhile, Griffin said people continue to call Hear for help finding housing.
“They are many,” she said.
From April until last week, The Quality Inn was full of NH ERAP participantsFunding comes through New Hampshire Housing and Community Action for the Tri-county. Prior to this, about 20 lodge rooms provided temporary housing for persons participating in the program.
To qualify for the ERAP program, which also provides home heating, Internet, rental assistance, and utilities, people must prove they have a household income of 80% or less of the median income in the area (in Grafton County, this is a cap of about $49,000 per person and $70,000 for a family of four); have experienced financial hardship related to the COVID-19 pandemic; and demonstrate that they are at risk of homelessness.
In order to cover their stay in a hotel or motel, people also have to show that they are either displaced from their primary place of residence or that they do not have a place, as well as document the fees the family is seeking for ERAP assistance. Standard room occupancy charges, including taxes and service charges, are covered, but utilities and food costs are not.
On Thursday, Goodwin said 44 of the 48 rooms at the Quality Inn were still full of ERAP participants, but she wasn’t sure how long they could stay.
Goodwin said the change means that “people on this waiting list will be waiting a long time to find temporary shelter.” “I don’t know yet what that means for the people at the Quality Inn.”
For her part, she said she is “in a wait-and-see mode”.
Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3213.