Anchorage

After dangerous code violations, Anchorage hotel abruptly shuts, leaving guests on the street

Some 30 people found themselves temporarily homeless after a Midtown Anchorage low-budget motel was abruptly closed with serious code violations.

Anchorage Stay N' Save on West 26th Avenue, just east of Arctic Boulevard, is facing multiple safety code violations after an inspection by code abatement officials, Anchorage police, and fire investigators. It closed on Thursday.

Authorities arrived in the early afternoon after learning there was no heat or hot water at the motel. Upon entering, they found a raft of hair-raising conditions.

“It was a disaster waiting to happen,” said Brian Dean, fire marshal.

Among numerous violations: automatic sprinklers that didn’t work, lack of smoke detectors, egress windows boarded over or ill-fitted, padlocked doors, space heaters in rooms, feces in showers, junk in the hallways, he said.

“Some guests were using coffee makers to heat water to bathe with,” he said.

A handwritten sign on the main door read “No Trespassing. Fumigating.”

Trash littered the ground near the motel entrance

An official “Notice to Vacate,” posted at 3 p.m. on Thursday, declared the four buildings on Stay N' Save’s property as unsafe. Gas had been shut off in late September due to nonpayment, according to the notice.

Owner Kelly Cusack Millen said Enstar Natural Gas would not work with her. She was trying to pay thousands of dollars owed but the utility was not being flexible, Millen said, and many of her guests were behind on their hotel charges. What happened on Thursday felt “like a raid” and she puts the blame squarely on Enstar.

“It’s so sad that they did it,” Millen said. “Money became more important than humanity.”

Lindsay Hobson of Enstar said she could not comment on the Stay N' Save situation because of the utility’s customer privacy policy.

“Our longstanding practice is to work with all customers to establish payment arrangements and avoid service disruptions,” said Hobson, Enstar’s administrative and communications manager.

Karlo Mercene, director of Catholic Social Service’s family homelessness program, said the Mobile Intervention Team asked him to come over to help some of the displaced guests find temporary housing.

The guests were told to grab what they could and leave the building right away.

“They had no idea what was happening,” Mercene said. “They were scared and nervous.”

He was able to get three into new hotel rooms, including one who signed a yearlong lease on Friday. Some had just paid their weekly hotel bill and didn’t have any money left. Catholic Social Services provided emergency assistance, Mercene said.

The Red Cross was also on-scene and provided help, Dean said.

The motel’s owner said some guests who moved in after the pandemic struck were troublesome. Others were unable to pay their bills because of COVID-related economic hardship. She was trying to fix up the motel and never intended to put anyone in an unsafe position, Millen said.

She considers the 69-unit motel an affordable housing option for people who might otherwise be homelessness. Many of her guests had lived at the motel for over 20 years, she said.

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