The Executive Inn on Anderson Road in Rock Hill has been condemned by city officials, and residents have been told they have one week to relocate.
On Thursday, city officials and Rock Hill police knocked on the doors of each occupied room and told residents “the building is condemned due to multiple issues that have not been repaired by the owner to date,” according to a letter given to residents.
In a letter to the Executive Inn’s owner, a city building official said “extremely little progress” had been made in resolving problems found at the facility since May. The problems included “major structural deterioration” such as falling concrete; stair rails and stairways that are corroded, broken or otherwise unstable; exposed electrical wiring in maintenance areas; and severe roof leaks, according to the letter dated Thursday. Other problems included missing or inoperable smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, a German cockroach infestation, severe water damage, and inoperable ventilation systems.
All of the problems have created “an environment of garbage, filth and potential contamination,” the letter said.
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An inspection in late September discovered a gas leak so severe that a local gas company discontinued service to the entire building until repairs are completed, the letter said.
The letter was addressed to Punam Patel, identified as the registered agent for HS Enterprises of Rock Hill. HS Enterprises is listed on York County property records as the Executive Inn’s owner. Patel could not be reached for comment Thursday.
In its letter to Executive Inn residents, the city included a list of shelters and other community agencies.
“We know this may present some difficulty for you and we wanted to make sure that you know what resources might be available to you in case you need assistance during this difficult time,” the letter said.
But several of the agencies listed, including the Red Cross and The Pilgrim’s Inn, told The Herald Thursday afternoon they did not know about the condemnation or the eviction of the Executive Inn’s residents, who include infants, children, teenagers, adults and senior citizens.
“That’s scary,” said Bryant Ward, executive director with The Pilgrim’s Inn, a shelter that serves women and children.
For every bed at Pilgrim’s Inn, the shelter has 21 applicants, he said.
Renew Our Community, an organization that seeks to provide services and connect people with agencies, also told The Herald it was not told about the evictions.
Residents say they had no warning before they were handed their notices Thursday morning, and were told they only had until next Friday to find new places to live. Many of them have lived out of the hotel for years, saying the inn is the only affordable housing available to them.
The current number of Executive Inn residents could not be determined Thursday.
Elaine Kennington said most of the rooms, including her own, have no running water, and residents were told to use two open rooms to bathe in a shared bathtub.
“I’ve had ring worms, I’ve been bit by bedbugs,” Kennington said. “It’s not our choice to live here, but this is our home.”
Kennington said all the money her fiance makes working at Golden Corral goes to paying their rent, and the family is forced to live off food stamps.
Several residents at the hotel said Thursday they had not seen the owner in days. A clerk at the front desk told The Herald no manager was on-site Thursday.
Several dozen children live at The Executive Inn, according to the families, who call themselves “week-to-week” families, or long-term residents, said Roderick Phillips, who has lived at the Executive Inn since November 2012.
Those children mainly attend Northside Elementary School, Sullivan Middle School and Rock Hill High School. On Thursday afternoon, Sullivan Middle principal Shane Goodwin said the school had not been notified but would begin working with school staff to help students and their families who may be in need.
“There’s no words,” said Phillips, who lives with his fiancee and 15-year-old son. “We have absolutely no idea what we’re going to do.”
Phillips works two jobs at local restaurants to pay the bills, he said.
Kari Owens lives in a room at the inn with her two sons and a baby daughter born just days before the eviction notice was served. She uses a coffee maker to heat water to bathe the infant in a sink. If the family has to move into a shelter, she’s been told her oldest son, at 17, is too old to move into a family shelter and would have to go to a men’s shelter by himself.
“I’m not going to do that to him. It would break his heart,” Owens said. “We don’t have anywhere to go, unless we can secure another hotel room.”
The Executive Inn is often the location of police activity, but resident Tina Eads said it’s no different than any other hotel in Rock Hill.
Rock Hill police spokesman Mark Bollinger said they see a “higher than usual” amount calls at the Executive Inn than at other area hotels. Between Oct. 1, 2013, to Wednesday, Rock Hill police received 452 calls to the Executive Inn. Most were “nuisance calls.”
Some residents complained about the presence of police during the notification process Thursday, saying they felt like criminals. But Katie Quinn, the city communications manager, said Rock Hill is hoping to assist residents by condemning the property.
“Our intention is to resolve the issue of that property being used as a substandard housing option,” Quinn said.
Plenty of people are working hard and this is the best they can afford, Eads said. To ask them to move somewhere else on the spur of the moment is financially impossible for many of them.
“Everybody’s working,” Eads said. “Where are these people supposed to get that paycheck from?”