East Colfax Motel Hell

No room at the Inn.


A couple of weeks after the Dunes closed, another motel on East Colfax, the Blue Spruce, gave its tenants the boot -- after collecting that week's rent, some say. Yet another motel, the Melody, was also closing. Aurora officials called in Maggie Tidwell for an emergency meeting.

"The meeting was basically a discussion of what the city could do to assist with the current motel closure," Tidwell says. "What I kept trying to get around to was the overall plan for people who would be displaced immediately and over the next few years, but we kept focusing on the Blue Spruce closing and where these folks are going to go. They said that they didn't know about the Blue Spruce and the Melody closing, and I said that we've had seven years to plan.

When the Dunes shut down, Amy Limon moved up East Colfax to the Sands Motel.
Mark Manger
When the Dunes shut down, Amy Limon moved up East Colfax to the Sands Motel.
Andy Klein arranged for Icon to help longtime Dunes tenants, like the Young family, cover the cost of new housing.
Mark Manger
Andy Klein arranged for Icon to help longtime Dunes tenants, like the Young family, cover the cost of new housing.

"The purpose of the meeting, truthfully, was damage control, and we know that -- everybody knows that. We're going to have people doubling up. We're going to have people sleeping outside who weren't sleeping outside before. It's going to exacerbate a problem, whereas if we looked at transitional housing programs and a large shelter that could help people reintegrate back into Aurora's society, then we'd be taking care of the problem instead of trying to make people invisible."

Instead, the problem is going to get worse. "This is the first wave," Tidwell continues. "This is when everybody's paying attention. We've got a lot more families to go."

At least Klein has committed to offering the same compensation package to residents of all of Icon's properties. Tidwell says she really appreciated Klein's asking for CCN's input on how to help the families, and is grateful for the plan that Icon came up with. "He doesn't have to do it; he's not required by law," she says. "Nobody's advocating for children to grow up in rundown motels, but I do believe if you're coming up with fancy new buildings, you've got to come up with a new place for these people to live. It's a moral issue, and we're talking with businessmen and politicians, so we need to make way for morals in the discussion. By getting rid of the motels, I feel they are trying to get rid of the people."

And while most of the motels are definitely coming down to make way for redevelopment projects, the city's done next to nothing to help the people those developments will displace. "If the city's involved, we have adopted the federal guidelines for relocation," says Mayor Tauer. "It's easy to miss the point that we have people who are in need, and we need to have programs in place for people who are in need. In some ways, this is helping to illustrate and put resources in place for an existing issue. We don't have unlimited resources, nor does anyone else. It's a different set of rules when we're in the project and when we're not."

While Tauer expects that Aurora will be involved in some of the projects that result from future motel closures, the city is not part of the current round of closures. For Aurora to get involved now, he says, would be like intervening between two private parties conducting a business deal. But the city can encourage developers to do well by the residents living in the properties that it buys to demolish and develop, he adds, and the families can look to Adams and Arapahoe counties for aid.

"As you know, in Colorado, most social services programs are provided at the county level -- that's where residents get access to Section 8 housing vouchers, affordable child care and assistance with food," Tauer writes in a follow-up letter. "Unfortunately, there is not a wide spectrum of services in Adams or Arapahoe counties specifically designed to address homelessness in Aurora."

And the homeless in need of services often get lost in the bureaucratic shuffle between Arapahoe, which lies south of Colfax, and Adams, to the north. Even Tauer isn't sure which county offers what services for the homeless.


No officials from Adams or Arapahoe counties, or even Aurora, stopped by the Dunes to see if the Youngs needed help relocating. Charles found the King's Inn on his own.

Amy Limon says an Arapahoe County caseworker tried to coerce her into moving into a retirement home with "some doped-out seniors." But otherwise, the only help she got was from her son and the woman working the front desk at the Dunes, who told her about other spots on East Colfax. Amy Limon wound up at the Sands Motel, now also owned by Icon and slated to close later this year.

At the very end of March, Amy Hess-Kibben and her family were still in room 325 at the Dunes. It smelled like piss, and Amy lifted the baby to sniff her bottom. But the reek wasn't coming from the diaper; it was emanating from the cardboard box that she was picking through, a box that hadn't been opened since one of the last times she'd been booted. Most of the stuff inside was trash, like the flower-shaped item she'd made by bending metal wire while tweaking one night. "Everyone needs a crazy-glue holder," Amy joked. But the search did unearth a few treasures, like an old CCN flyer with a picture of Jaime that showed the type of kids the organization was trying to help.

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