Inlet Inn Closure Leaves Residents on the Edge

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An Anchorage motel that has become notorious for calls to the police and fire department is shutting down. The Inlet Inn has agreed to close by the end of the month. Police say it’s an effort to clean up downtown, but it means many long-term residents of the motel will have to find a new place to live.

“Inlet Inn, can I help you … thank you …,” Michael Corpus said.

Michael Corpus manages the front desk at the Inlet Inn. He’s worried about where long-term residents will live when the motel closes. – Photo by Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Anchorage

Corpus has managed the front desk at the Inlet Inn at the corner of 6th Avenue and H Street in downtown Anchorage for 20 years. He says the Inn has served as a safety net for people on the edge of homelessness.

“There is a high volume in the off season of people who stay long-term, they can either afford to pay weekly or monthly,” Corpus said. “We often negotiate with guests and try to be affordable to them if this is their last straw.”

About half of the hotel’s 80 or so rooms are full this week, Corpus says, and most of them belong to long-term occupants who will have to move out by Feb. 1. George Forney lives and works at the inn.

“I’m gonna be without a job and homeless in one swing after 14 years of being here,” Forney said.

Forney shares a $600 a month room with his girlfriend, Martha John. John says the shutdown is scary.

“I’ve never been in a place that’s being shut down you know and I don’t know where to go and it’s hard to find a home, and I don’t know how you say that …. it’s ho, (Forney: hopeless) yeah hopeless, and I need help to keep on living,” John said.

About a year and half ago police began watching the Inlet Inn in an effort to clean up crime downtown. They fined the Inn for a high number of ‘nuisance’ calls to police and fire. Sergeant Mark Rein leads the Community Action Policing Team or CAB and headed up the investigation of the Inn. He says there were more calls to police and fire from the Inn last year than any other private business in the city

“In 2012 the police department responded to 490 calls at the Inlet Inn, which is extremely high,” Rein said.

About 180 of them were ‘nuisance’ calls, but many, Rein says, were more serious. “The most common call was drunk problems, drunken disturbances calls. We got numerous assaults. We had numerous medical assists. We had drug calls. There were sexual assaults there. There was one homicide in 2012 there,” Rein saiRein says surveillance revealed that Inlet Inn was a center for drug activity.

Photo by Daysha Eaton, KSKA - Anchorage
Martha John and George Forney stand in front of their room at the Inlet Inn. They have lived there for more than a decade. The Couple  says they will probably move to another budget motel on Gambell Street when the Inlet Inn closes. Photo by Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Anchorage.

“At one point we saw a guy who was later arrested for murder in Mountain View go into the Inlet Inn, come out with a package, walk to the front of the transit center, line up three of the guys that we knew were drug runners, hand them packages and they went off and started running drugs,” Rein said.

Cocaine and marijuana, as well as synthetic pot and bath salts were all being distributed in the area, Rein says. The main problem at the hotel, according to Rein, was a lack of security. Mark Pfeifer is one of the owners of Augustine Energy LLC, the real estate holding company that owns the property. Because of the lack of security, Augustine decided to terminate the Inlet Inn’s lease. Augustine bought the property about five years ago, Pfeifer says, and had always planned to redevelop it.

“These properties often times have cities grow up around them and them and their former uses start to become inappropriate and that’s what’s happened here,” Pfeifer said. Pfeifer says the building will be boarded up and likely demolished by the end of the summer. He’s not sure what will stand in its place. The site was permitted for a 21-story office tower in 2009.

Back at the front desk of the Inlet Inn, Corpus, the front desk manager, says that closing the Inn may be a natural progression in the evolution of downtown Anchorage, but the people who live at the Inn signal a larger problem in the city: a lack of affordable supportive housing.

“This is not Inlet Inn’s problem, this is the city’s problem. And if everybody raises their rates to cast those people who can’t afford, they’re going to go somewhere. They’re gonna go to an empty building somewhere, they’re gonna camp in the woods, or they’re gonna tag team and get a room someplace, they have issues,” Corpus said.

Anchorage Shelters are just about full, officials say, and an influx of residents from the Inlet Inn could push them over capacity in February.

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Daysha Eaton is a contributor with the Alaska Public Radio Network.

Daysha Eaton holds a B.A. from Evergreen State College, and a M.A. from the University of Southern California. Daysha got her start in radio at Seattle public radio stations, KPLU and KUOW. Before coming to KBBI, she was the News Director at KYUK in Bethel. She has also worked as the Southcentral Reporter for KSKA in Anchorage.

Daysha's work has appeared on NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered", PRI's "The World" and "National Native News". She's happy to take assignments, and to get news tips, which are best sent via email.

Daysha became a journalist because she believes in the power of storytelling. Stories connect us and they help us make sense of our world. They shed light on injustice and they comfort us in troubled times. She got into public broadcasting because it seems to fulfill the intention of the 4th Estate and to most effectively apply the freedom of the press granted to us through the Constitution. She feels that public radio has a special way of moving people emotionally through sound, taking them to remote places, introducing them to people they would not otherwise meet and compelling them to think about issues they might ordinarily overlook.

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