ACTIONN is working to make that happen.
By Aria Overli
As the Economic Justice organizer for ACTIONN, I have been tasked with organizing the weekly motels. Due to its size, connections with current residents, and access to its residents, we identified a weekly motel to begin our organizing efforts. At this motel, I have begun outreach to the residents to have conversations, hear about concerns, and identify potential leaders in the fight for affordable housing in Northern Nevada.
Through a potluck held in August at this weekly motel, canvassing door to door, and referrals from other residents, I have had contact with 92 residents, had in-depth conversations with 24 residents, and have identified a dozen residents who show potential for leadership in this movement.
Through my conversations, I learned about bedbug and cockroach infestations within the weekly motels, fears of rising rents and no-cause evictions, and concerns over lack of other options in the area for affordable rent. Many of the people I spoke to are elderly and/or disabled, and their social security and disability payments simply do not cover the cost of rent in Reno. Others came to the hotel intending to stay temporarily, but have been unable to raise the funds needed to pay for application fees, deposits, and first and last month’s rent in order to get into permanent housing. Others who were able to secure the funding consistently had their rental applications denied due to past evictions or criminal records that were often decades in the past.
I heard stories about neighbors forming deep relations in order to help each other get to doctor’s appointments, find jobs, and help with mobility for disabled residents. These deep friendships demonstrate the power of community in even the most marginalized places.
We spoke to people who have a long history of fighting for better conditions for their neighbors. One resident has repeatedly contacted local city council members in order to request support for her disabled neighbors who have been overrun with bed bug infestations. Another resident suggested a weekly bill of rights be developed and handed out to all weekly residents, providing information about what legal rights they have as residents and who to contact if those rights are being undermined.
These folks have continually had their poverty, their age, and their disabilities used to keep them from positions of power, but they have unique, innovative, and important solutions to the crises that we currently are facing as a community. Through helping to identify the places where their power has been taken away, providing connection to their neighbors, and helping to facilitate connections to people in power, ACTIONN hopes to bring their voices to the forefront of the struggle for affordable housing.
The stories that I have heard in my conversations with folks in the weekly motels have affected me deeply. I know that if these stories can make their way from the tiny rooms of the weekly motels into our local churches, community organizations, and the walls of our government, they can deeply affect the moral direction of our community as a whole. Together, we can make sure that the voices of folks most affected by the affordable housing crisis are leading the conversation and are backed by the power necessary to bring about real change for our communities.
If you are interested in getting involved in this work, as a community member or a weekly resident, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.