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The looming closure and demolition of the Super 8 Motel may have forced about 35 people, including about 13 children, out of their current housing, but City of Williamsburg staff said they feel confident none will be left homeless Monday when the motel closes to guests.
After Williamsburg’s City Council approved the purchase of the dilapidated motel at 1233 Richmond Road on Jan. 14, the city’s Human and Social Services staff began working with dozens of people who were living in 13 of the motel’s 66 units.
Pending a 60-day waiting period to look for defects in the title or problems with the property, a closing date on the sale is likely to be scheduled in April. Super 8 set its own closing date for Feb. 22.
While some of the motel’s guests were able to make immediate arrangements for themselves, city staff worked with people in seven of the occupied units. As of Tuesday afternoon, all are on track to have a place to live after leaving Super 8 – and some have benefitted from the city’s involvement beyond their housing situation.
“We try to get past the quick fix. We actually do try to spend time with these individuals so they don’t find themselves in the same situation down the line,” said Peter Walentisch, the city’s director of Human and Social Services. “They’re much better off if you approach it that way, and that’s the bottom line.”
Help from the city ranged from offering a list of housing options to connecting people with programs they may not have otherwise discovered.
Because most of the people staying at the Super 8 had extenuating circumstances that prevented them from securing more permanent housing, the human services staff saw the motel’s closing as an opportunity to do more for residents than simply moving them to a new transient housing situation.
“We take a holistic and long-term approach,” said Roy Gerardi, the city outreach counselor who worked on the Super 8 case. “We want to think about the whole person, and we want to avoid the Band-Aid. We want to find the best long-term solution for a person or family.”
Anyone who requests help from the city would go through a full assessment that looks into a person’s financial, health, family and housing situations in order to figure out the best service plan, Gerardi said. People can refuse help at any time.
After the assessment, they are referred to programs or other solutions – such as job opportunities – to start them on a path to stability.
At least one family who had been staying in the Super 8 will benefit from the Williamsburg Child Health Initiative, funded by a $260,000 grant from the Williamsburg Health Foundation. They will work with the city’s Care Team – made up of a social worker, a behavioral health expert and a nurse – on a long-term basis to address health concerns, starting with the children.
The Care Team, a three-year pilot program currently serving about 15 families, aims to improve the health and well-being of children and their families by connecting them with community resources and helping them with transportation and support to appointments when needed.
“The pilot aims to show that if systems had the internal expertise to address the multiple issues within a family and they make the time and effort to work with that family over a longer period of time, as needed, you will see some effective change and outcomes that would not have been as possible before,” Walentisch said. “It’s really just a reflection of our philosophy, and the grant is helping us to really dive into it.”
Though the Super 8’s closing had the potential to upend the livelihood of dozens of people, Walentisch said these types of situations often help to connect residents in need with the appropriate resources.
“We always take the opportunity to help people beyond the problem that’s on the surface,” Walentisch said. “That’s what we did in this situation – help the people, who were willing, to find more than just housing.”