MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Dozens of New Richmond citizens, including kids, will lose their homes over the next two months.
Hotel Lowrey, one of few places that will house convicted felons, recovering addicts and people struggling with mental illness, will soon close. The hotel is their refuge as they transition back into society.
Rent is only $350 a month, modest compared to most hotels.
The 100-plus-year-old building in downtown New Richmond is being sold.
Around 50 people live inside the hotel. Resident Rachel Wasson gave WCCO-TV a tour of her space.
“So this is my humble room-slash-home for now,” Wasson said.
Just like her neighbors, she has one room equipped with the basics.
“Nothing huge, nothing fancy,” she said. “You get a bed, you get a dresser, a desk.”
Wasson spends her days working the front desk, working to regain custody of her son.
“I’m trying to get him back, and this place makes it easier for me to save money, to be stable enough … so I can get my little guy back,” she said.
Peyton Heistand, who has autism, also Calls the Lowrey Hotel home.
“This is the only place that I have seen in New Richmond that will rent out to a felon,” Heistand said.
His fraud conviction makes housing a steep challenge. It is a problem Stacy Wright recognizes.
“They’ve paid their price, they’ve paid their time. You know, the second part of that is to get re-transitioned into society,” Wright said. “That’s one of the biggest things I do here, and we have a really good track record with that.”
Wright runs the business, but she does not think of it like that.
“I don’t consider it a job. It’s just something that God put in front of me,” Wright said.
Soon, her work will be done. The owner says he is empathetic to the renter, but is in bad health and needs to sell. The residents must be out by late August.
“It breaks my heart, really,” Wright said.
“I mean look, where am I supposed to go that I can afford?” Wasson said.
“The city is throwing about 50 separate families out of the street that have nowhere else to go,” Heistand said.
Some worry that the hotel is not a fit for a newly-revitalized downtown.
“I would disagree with their statement that we want to get them away from our downtown, that’s not the case at all,” said Mayor Fred Horne. “These are dignified people, they deserve dignified housing.”
Horne and City Administrator Mike Darrow tell WCCO-TV they have held several community meetings and plan to keep collaborating.
“We’ve said from the beginning this is a community issue and it’s a community challenge,” Darrow said.
“Basically, we’re going to find a home for all these people,” Horne said.
No doubt it will be hard for a few dozen people living a tough life.
“My prayer is that they don’t get kicked out on to the street,” Wright said.
She is going to start her own nonprofit with some other business owners around town. She says the goal is to provide more housing like the Lowrey Hotel, but even nicer.
The city sent WCCO-TV this official statement:
The City is aware of closing of the Lowrey. We have been working with residents and the operator of the Lowrey, along with folks from the County, State, Corrections and members of the faith community to find short and long-term housing for the residents of the Lowrey. We understand the impact that this closure will have on those that call the Lowrey home and are committed to working in partnership with others to assist during this transition. While we have been involved with the owner of the building with regard to preserving their family legacy in the development of their property, our number one objective is to ensure that those that call the Lowrey home find dignified housing prior to its closure.