Advertisement
The Aegis
Harford County

Aberdeen motel’s plans to close leaves 14 Harford families on edge of homelessness

Twenty-five adults and 10 children are on the verge of homelessness following a 10-day notice from the Holly Hill Motel in Aberdeen that it plans to close.

Advertisement

Tenants of the motel, at 1400 S. Philadelphia Blvd (Rt 40), were given notice July 5 that the motel is closing Friday. They have been asked to vacate the property and were told the water and electricity are being shut off Friday.

According to the notice, provided to The Aegis by tenants, the owner is shuttering the property because of the economic downturn and rising expenses.

Advertisement

“This was not our decision, but results from factors out of our control, including unpaid rent, economic downturn and rising expenses,” Josef Bayles, the owner of Holly Hill Motel, said in the letter to tenants. “Further, the impending sale of the property necessitates this outcome.”

About six to seven families at Holly Hill Motel struggle to pay rent on time, said Cassie Farlow, a resident of the motel. The residents, however, are unhappy with how the notice was handled, Farlow said, including the small window to find new accommodations with no help from the motel owner.

Wini Roche, who is running for Harford County Council, said she heard about the situation through her nonprofit, We Coalition of Maryland Inc., a grassroots nonprofit women’s crisis center in Harford. She connected residents with Harford Community Action Agency and other local authorities, including Len Parrish of the county’s Office of Community and Economic Development.

“We’re aware of the closing and we have connected all of the affected tenants to Harford Community Action Agency, which does our centralized screening and referral for housing services,” said Cynthia Mumby, county director of government and community relations. “We also reached out to all of the landlords we currently work with and put out a notice requesting additional housing assistance from any landlords that may have space available. We connected them to Legal Aid for help with fighting an eviction. If there is a dispute or a violation it would be for the courts to decide. Our concern is connecting them to alternative housing options.”

The Harford Community Action Agency informed the tenants that it is illegal not to provide at least 30 days notice, said Brian Wainwright, director of the supportive services program at the Harford Community Action Agency, which helps struggling county residents with housing, food, energy and family counseling. Typically, the owner has to go to court to be able to execute an eviction.

“Providing these households with a 10-day notice to vacate is an extremely short period of time to ask any household to vacate their dwelling place but especially for these families because they are residing at this location because it is the only place that will provide a rental option to these families due to a variety of rental barriers,” said Wainwright. “Rental barriers can and will include low-income, pets that are not registered as an emotional support or service animal, previous evictions on their rental history, poor credit scores and criminal justice involvement. In the competitive rental market that we currently find ourselves in, these barriers are a real thing and often the reason behind denial letters presented to the families after submitting applications.”

Advertisement

Considering the rental barriers faced by these households, residents stayed quiet about the living conditions, Farlow said. The county Department of Inspections, Licenses and Permits received an anonymous complaint for the smell of sewage at the hotel in 2018, according to Mumby.

When inspectors showed up, the sewer line had already been replaced, which resolved the problem, Mumby said. There have been no other complaints in several years. The government annually inspects rentals in relation to the county’s housing voucher programs, but other rental properties only when a livability complaint is filed, she said.

There is no livability complaint on file about Holly Hill, Mumby said.

The residents of Holly Hill are being classified by the county as at imminent risk of homelessness, said Wainwright. Under grant parameters, these households are eligible for emergency shelter and rapid re-housing based on the following criteria:

  • Individuals or a family who will imminently lose their primary nighttime residence within 14 days of the date of application for homeless assistance.
  • No subsequent residence has been identified.
  • The individual or family lacks the resources or support networks needed to obtain other permanent housing.
  • A court order resulting from an eviction action notifying the individual or family that they must leave; or for individuals and families leaving a hotel or motel—evidence that they lack the financial resources to stay.

Troy Kerr, who has lived at the motel for eight months, said that when he has contacted the county and other groups for housing assistance, they have not characterized him as homeless.

Advertisement

“They call it lodging,” Kerr said of his residence at Holly Hill.

Kerr, whose daughter is eight months pregnant and lives with him, said years of drug addiction and bad credit led him to the hotel. Now sober and working 12-hour shifts three days a week, Kerr said he will probably end up living in his car for awhile, which is where he lived for three months prior to the motel.

“I don’t have anywhere to go, and I have to work Friday, too,” Kerr said.

The Harford Community Action Agency is going through the application process with Kerr and other interested tenants to fill housing vacancies. Four to five households should have new housing, according to Wainwright, while the other Holly Hill residents will be placed into vacant spots as they fill out applications.

Advertisement

“After speaking to each household, it was very clear that each household does not have the resources or supportive networks to locate, apply and subsequently transition into permanent housing,” Wainwright said. “So, as a result, HCAA has provided the following case management to each household to be assisted under the rapid re-housing program.”

On July 6, Wainwright began dropping off applications for housing assistance because not all Holly Hill residents would need or want the services from HCAA after an initial assessment. He collected each application completed in order to schedule an intake meeting for each, Wainwright said.

Once intake was completed, staff provided the contact number to seek legal advice from the local Legal Aid office overseeing both Harford and Cecil counties. Since there was no court-ordered eviction on hand, the Holly Hill residents were instructed to seek legal help as it pertains to their circumstances, Wainwright said.

Maryland Legal Aid would not comment since attorneys are still looking in the matter, said Jennifer Lavella, a representative of Maryland Legal Aid.

“Based upon person-centered information for each household, I began merging available vacancies that I identified to each household who could afford them,” Wainwright said. “I have showered each household with as many applications that I can so they can apply to as many available options as possible to increase their likelihood to transition into a permanent housing placement.”

Advertisement

Calls made to Bayles by The Aegis were not returned and no one answered the phone numbers posted on the motel office door.

“If Harford County had adequate low-income housing policy/inventory and emergency shelter facilities, this situation would not have occurred,” said Roche, of the We Coalition of Maryland. “We can do better for our citizens.”

Holly Hill Motel in Aberdeen suddenly notified it’s residents by hand-written stationery, that it was closing effective July 15. Residents gave a tour, looking through windows of some rooms, showing the horrible conditions. The motel is along Route 40 in Perryman. According to residents, currently occupied rooms have holes in the floors with floor boards over them or floors that are caving in, holes or leaks in the ceiling and one with a non-working toilet.
Holly Hill Motel in Aberdeen suddenly notified it’s residents by hand-written stationery, that it was closing effective July 15. Residents gave a tour, looking through windows of some rooms, showing the horrible conditions. The motel is along Route 40 in Perryman.
Holly Hill Motel in Aberdeen suddenly notified it’s residents by hand-written stationery, that it was closing effective July 15. Residents gave a tour, looking through windows of some rooms, showing the horrible conditions. The motel is along Route 40 in Perryman.
Holly Hill Motel in Aberdeen suddenly notified it’s residents by hand-written stationery, that it was closing effective July 15. Residents gave a tour, looking through windows of some rooms, showing the horrible conditions. The motel is along Route 40 in Perryman.
Holly Hill Motel in Aberdeen suddenly notified it’s residents by hand-written stationery, that it was closing effective July 15. Residents gave a tour, looking through windows of some rooms, showing the horrible conditions. The motel is along Route 40 in Perryman.
Holly Hill Motel in Aberdeen suddenly notified it’s residents by hand-written stationery, that it was closing effective July 15. Residents gave a tour of the horrible conditions of some of the rooms. The motel is along Route 40 in Perryman
Holly Hill Motel in Aberdeen suddenly notified it’s residents by hand-written stationery, that it was closing effective July 15. Residents gave a tour, looking through windows of some rooms, showing the horrible conditions. The motel is along Route 40 in Perryman. According to residents, currently occupied rooms have holes in the floors with floor boards over them or floors that are caving in, holes or leaks in the ceiling and one with a non-working toilet.
Holly Hill Motel in Aberdeen suddenly notified it’s residents by hand-written stationery, that it was closing effective July 15. The no vacancy sign was posted on the door to the motel office.
Residents gave a tour of the horrible conditions of some of the rooms. The motel is along Route 40 in Perryman
Holly Hill Motel in Aberdeen suddenly notified it’s residents by hand-written stationery, that it was closing effective July 15. Residents gave a tour, looking through windows of some rooms, showing the horrible conditions. The motel is along Route 40 in Perryman. According to residents, currently occupied rooms have holes in the floors with floor boards over them or floors that are caving in, holes or leaks in the ceiling and one with a non-working toilet.
Holly Hill Motel in Aberdeen suddenly notified it’s residents by hand-written stationery, that it was closing effective July 15. Residents gave a tour, looking through windows of some rooms, showing the horrible conditions. The motel is along Route 40 in Perryman. According to residents, currently occupied rooms have holes in the floors with floor boards over them or floors that are caving in, holes or leaks in the ceiling and one with a non-working toilet.
Holly Hill Motel in Aberdeen suddenly notified it’s residents by hand-written stationery, that it was closing effective July 15. Residents gave a tour, looking through windows of some rooms, showing the horrible conditions. The motel is along Route 40 in Perryman.

Advertisement