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Homeless advocacy group occupies Fife motel, calls for city and county to foot the bill

The "biggest crime of all is letting people freeze to death on the streets,” says a spokesperson for Tacoma Housing Now, which organized the move.

FIFE, Wash. — Fifteen rooms in a Fife motel have been taken over by homeless people and the group that organized the Christmas Eve move-in say they aren’t checking out until their demands are met.

Shawn Randhawa, the owner of this Travelodge in Fife, says the guests paid for one night but now refuse to leave. The group initially booked 16 rooms though now they only occupy 15, according to Randhawa.

This was an organized move by the homeless advocacy group Tacoma Housing Now. Spokesperson Rebecca Parson saying they will not check out until those demands are met.

“The goal is to stay as long as possible and to get the owner of the hotel paid,” Parson said.

“I would say that the biggest crime of all is letting people freeze to death on the streets especially over Christmas,” she said.

This was a surprise to hotel owner Shawn Randhawa — who says he's not letting his housekeeping crews into the rooms. 

This afternoon Tacoma Housing Now reported that at least one guest has tested positive for the coronavirus.

“Here are these people, booking for one night. Cheat me into it and now are trying to tell me that I’m doing something. I’m not against nobody but somebody needs to be paying for it,” Randhawa said.

In any other circumstance, Fife Police would remove the trespassers. The owner says it’s happened before but that’s not happening this time.

A spokesperson for the police department says that is on hold as city leaders work toward a resolution.

“My concern is their protest and that (that) shuts me down. All my real paying customers the people that were supposed to be booking on all these channels they’re not going to book I have zero reservations today. And I had two yesterday they all got canceled,” Randhawa said.

Pierce County Councilwoman Pam Roach was at the motel today and wants the squatters out.

“This is an occupation by the homeless of an establishment that is a private establishment to raise money. They came here fraudulently they are stealing from the man on a daily basis,” Roach said.  

“But we still must take care of the homeless they cannot be out here on the street in freezing weather,” she said.

As for the tab that the group is running up, Tacoma Housing Now says the hotel owner will get paid. The money just won’t come from them.

“Like most or all hotel owners he’s struggling right now because of the pandemic. In fact, we are bringing business to the hotel. We paid for the first night. And we’re demanding that the city and county pay for the other nights that we’ve been here,” Parson said.