Page One

City Council OKs emergency aid for housing at Flamingo Motel

By John Geluardi, Daily Planet staff
Saturday November 17, 2001

The City Council approved $175,000 Tuesday for an emergency housing program at the Flamingo Motel, which serves the most vulnerable homeless – those with serious mental disabilities. 

Councilmember Linda Maio had removed the recommendation from the council’s Oct. 30 meeting agenda because she wanted to know more about the program before she voted on it. The program has been operating out of the 32-room Flamingo Motel at 1761 University Ave. since March.  

“I was unaware of the extent of the program and what services they were offering,” she said. “There has been a rash of robberies in the neighborhood and I wanted neighbors to be assured that there was no connection.”  

Harvey Tureck, manager of the Mental Health Division, said none of the program’s clients has been arrested for any crimes in the area. 

“These are not problem people,” Tureck said. “They are mentally disabled and not the type of people who are usually associated with crime.” 

The council unanimously approved the funding after a short presentation by Tureck and Fred Medrano, the director of the Health and Human Services Department. Now the city will pay motel owner Andy Rosen a tab of $70,000 and continue using the facility through June 30. 

The funding comes from a $3 million grant the city received last November to assist up to 100 mentally ill homeless through November 2003 via a state program called Integrated Services for the Mentally Ill.  

The motel has provided temporary housing for approximately 13 clients since March at a cost of $65 per person per night.  

Medrano said the high cost of the rooms at the motel has been draining too much money from other aspects of the program and will be tapered back to approximately five or six clients per night. 

Maio, who lives adjacent to the motel, organized a meeting with city health officials so she and concerned neighbors could learn more about the program. Medrano and Tureck attended the meeting, along with neighbors James Wemmer and Robert Browning, Maio’s husband.  

Also at the meeting was nonprofit developer Ali Kashani, the executive director of Affordable Housing Associates, which is building 27 units of affordable housing next door to the motel. 

Wemmer said he is less worried about the program since attending the meeting. He said he was relieved to hear the Flamingo program was going to serve fewer people. 

But Wemmer said what really put him at ease was an endorsement of the program by Flamingo owner Andy Rosen. 

“Andy has been there for years and he said he’s had very few problems with the people that are being housed there,” Wemmer said. “They have always run a compassionate motel and Andy said he has known some of the people staying there for years.” 

Rosen said that over the years he has frequently contracted with agencies that provide emergency housing. “In fact, we even donate some rooms to the Salvation Army and the Red Cross,” Rosen said.  

He went on to say that he has worked with the Women’s Drop In Center, Building Opportunities for Self Sufficiency, the city’s Winter Shelter Program among others. 

“We have always run a benevolent motel,” said Rosen whose father purchased the motel in the 1960s. “If there was any problem with these people you can bet that we wouldn’t participate in these types of programs.” 

Rosen went on to say that the Integrated Services for the Mentally Ill clients were no exception. 

“These are very mild people,” Rosen said. “They have a stigma that’s not deserved.”