'They Are Keeping Me Hostage': Homeless, Advocacy Group Occupy Fife Motel


A homeless advocacy group is occupying a Fife motel without pay, and city police are looking to cooperate with them to find shelter.

Tacoma Housing Now booked 16 rooms at the Fife Travelodge Motel at 3518 Pacific Hwy. E on Thursday, motel manager Shawn Randhawa said.

After paying for the initial night, the occupants have refused to pay or leave for four days.

"I'm just devastated," he told The News Tribune. "Because of the protest, I have nothing else. I was barely getting through this pandemic, and now this. This Christmas, the Grinch came."

Fife Police Chief Pete Fisher said the group is trespassing. Rather than use force to remove the people, he wants to work with the organization.

"We're trying to see if we can work out a resolution without having to take law enforcement action," Fisher said. "We're talking about people with medical issues, cold weather that are homeless. So we are trying to work with our neighboring agencies to see what we can do in the form of relief, relief or temporary shelter."

Rebecca Parson, the spokesperson for Tacoma Housing Now, said at least five people have died this year from exposure while living outside in Tacoma. She said there are positive COVID-19 cases at homeless shelters, and the group wanted a safe option for those with medical conditions.

"We wanted somewhere for people to stay warm and dry and get showers and stay as safe as possible," Parson told The News Tribune.

There are people staying in the motel rooms and about 60 protesters standing outside the motel. Parson said two more motel rooms of unhoused people have joined in the protest, making the total 18 rooms occupied.

The Tacoma Housing Now group said they have housed 43 people at the motel. The advocacy group wants Tacoma and Pierce County to pay for the rooms.

The group insists they want the manager, Randhawa, to be paid.

"We paid for first night — Christmas Eve — and then we are sending the bill to county and city," Parson said.

Asked about the crime of trespassing, Parson said: "The biggest crime of all is anybody dying of cold in the streets."

Pierce County said they are looking into this but they have not been in discussions with Tacoma Housing Now.

Randhawa said he feels the group isn't giving him a choice and he doesn't feel supported by the police or the city. He said there was destruction of property when one of the doors was broken after he locked a motel room.

"They are keeping me hostage. No one is out to help me," he said. "It's complete lawlessness in the city of Fife."

If the situation does not change in a few days, Randhawa said he will abandon the property and his 15 employees will stop showing up.

"I'll have to lock the doors. and if the city won't kick them out, they can have it," he said. "I'll shut off the water and I'm not fighting with these people. I believe there should be a law."

The organization took over Gault Middle School in November to house those experiencing homelessness, but left after Tacoma police threatened to make arrests.

Pierce County council member Pam Roach, who represents Fife, said that this situation is a result of the need for housing for the homeless and a disregard for people's businesses.

"It goes right back to the fact that we need to find space for people especially when it's cold," she told The News Tribune. "If the government isn't doing its job, citizens pay for it — just like this business owner."


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