Last year, Alesha Clark-Eurie and her five children found themselves living in a motel room for five months.
After a series of difficult circumstances, Clark-Eurie was facing homelessness, while working full time as a registered medical assistant, in the middle of a pandemic.
"It was really hard, depressing," said Clark-Eurie, "I saw my kids whole personality just dwindle. That took a toll on me as well, as their mom, and being the one used to providing somewhere safe and stable for them to live at. I couldn’t provide that at the time."
They stayed with family for a while, but she did not want to burden them for long. Plus, with her working in the medical field, there were health concerns around older adults during the pandemic. Through assistance with the United Way of the Lakeshore, Clark-Eurie and her family were set up with a room at a Muskegon area motel.
"So, we’re all in one room, one bathroom, two beds," said Clark-Eurie, "Barely enough room to turn around. They couldn’t really go outside because of the area the hotel was in."
During that time, the children were attending daycare, school, and doing virtual school from the room. Clark-Eurie was working full time, including extra hours, all while trying to find housing. She woke at 5am to get the kids where they needed to be, went to work, and had to stop at the grocery store every day for food. The room did not have a refrigerator.
"I thought, I don't know how I'm going to do this," said Clark-Eurie, "But I can’t give up. I got five sets eyes looking at me, depending on me. It’s not their fault we’re in this situation."
She was not alone. Janavive Routt with the United Way of the Lakeshore said they housed many families in motel rooms in the past year and a half. It began when the shelters began to fill up during the pandemic. They also used some of the rooms to house and isolate COVID-19 positive people facing homelessness for a while.
In one motel, there are currently 66 children living there, according to Routt. She said the owner of the motel does not allow the children to play outside beyond their doors, as the area often sees shootings, drug use, and prostitution.
"I’m hoping we can rally people who care in this community, said Routt, "So we can work together to provide these kids, and these families, with a chance, a fair chance, with getting through this difficult time and raise them up to be successful."
Meanwhile, even with some help from the United Way, living in a motel is not a cheap option. Routt said it can cost anywhere between $1,200 and $2,500 a month. Spending that much money on temporary housing can deplete savings for a permanent solution.
However, there are challenges with finding a permanent solution as well. There are many barriers to leasing or owning a home. Also, with the current housing market, finding a place is more difficult than ever.
"Muskegon County is probably hit hardest with the housing crisis during the pandemic," said Clark-Eurie, "I don’t believe there is a lot of affordable housing out there, or housing period, right now."
Though hard work, a good family support system, and help from the United Way, Clark-Eurie finally found a place to call home. They have been living there since April, happy to say goodbye to the motel room.
"I never thought I would end up without anywhere to live," said Clark-Eurie, "I had a lot of judgment about people who are homeless. Like, they're dirty, lazy, they don’t work. And when if found myself in that situation, it was like, huh that’s not true."
Meanwhile, Routt knows there are challenges in every situation. Helping give access to food for families like those facing similar challenges, can help make a difference.
Every third Thursday of the month, the United Way and other partners hold a Food Truck night at the motels. Not only does this provide a hot meal, but also brings pantry items for families to choose.
"If it means they will be better to afford their rent or other bills," said Routt, "That’s the reason we do what we do right now."
13 ON YOUR SIDE is partnering with United Ways across West Michigan for the Summer Stock-Up, which is a month-long effort to re-stock food pantry shelves and support organizations that feed people.
To learn more about Summer Stock-Up efforts, and how you can help, click here.
You can also bring items to donate to the station on June 23-24. Click here for more information.
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