Lebanon Quality Inn removed from list for housing referrals

LEBANON — Tri-County Community Action informed Upper Valley social service providers on Monday that it had stopped referring people receiving support through the New Hampshire Emergency Rental Assistance Program to the Quality Inn off Route 120 in Lebanon on July 28.

This leaves people without shelter in the Upper Valley with one less place to go.

"There are two dozen people on a waitlist for motels in this area," said Lynne Goodwin, Lebanon's human services director. She said Monday's email from Tri-County Community Action did not include an explanation as to why it was no longer sending referrals to the Quality Inn.

The Sunset Motor Inn in West Lebanon and the Best Western near the airport are each taking a handful of people through the ERAP program, Goodwin said. Outside of Lebanon, Tri-County Community Action also works with two inns in Plymouth, NH, she said. Plymouth is about 40 miles or an hour's drive from Lebanon.

Reached by phone on Friday, Ashok Patel, one of the vice presidents of the Massachusetts-based Jamsan Hotel Management that manages the Quality Inn and the Best Western, said he was unaware that the Tri-County Community Action Program was no longer referring people to the Quality Inn.

"We are accepting referrals if we have space available to help with the housing," he said. "... If we cannot house them, the local program authority will make alternative arrangements. If there's no space, I propose that could be a situation that we are not able to comment on.”

Patel said he did not think the Lebanon Best Western was accepting ERAP participants.

"We haven't had the need," Patel said. “Nobody reached out to us for that hotel.”

Goodwin said that Tri-County Community Action Program informed her and other Upper Valley social service providers on July 19 that Ketan Rawal, general manager of the Quality Inn, would also be serving as a homeless outreach worker for Tri-County.

Efforts to reach Rawal by phone and email on Friday were unsuccessful, as were efforts to reach Tri-County Community Action Program and New Hampshire Housing.

Patel said Rawal is a hotel employee. "If he's helping them with something, I don't know about it," Patel said of Rawal working for Tri-County.

Heather Griffin, assistant program director at Listen, which has been working with clients staying at the Quality Inn, said a shared online list of people waiting for emergency shelter maintained by Tri-County that she had been able to access disappeared this week. Griffin said that when she asked Tri-County what happened to the list, she was told that the "tech department removed things that were not, like, essential."

"Now we're all like, 'Darn it, nobody printed a copy of the hotel waitlist,'" she said. "Now we have no way of tracking that."

In the meantime, Griffin said people continue to call Listen seeking assistance finding housing.

"It's a lot of people," she said.

Since April and until last week, the Quality Inn had been full of participants in the NH ERAP program, funding for which comes through New Hampshire Housing and Tri-County Community Action. Prior to that, about 20 of the inn's rooms were providing temporary housing for people in the program.

To qualify for the ERAP program, which also provides home heating, internet, rental and utility assistance, people have to show that they have a household income of 80% or less of the area median income (in Grafton County, this is a limit of about $49,000 for a single person and $70,000 for a four-person household); have experienced financial hardship related to the COVID-19 pandemic; and show that they are at risk of homelessness.

In order to have their stay in a hotel or motel covered, people also have to show that they have either been displaced from their primary residence or that they don't have one, as well as documentation of the charges for which the household is seeking ERAP's assistance. Standard room occupancy charges, including taxes and service fees, are covered, but amenities and food are not.

On Thursday, Goodwin said 44 of the Quality Inn's 48 rooms were still filled with ERAP participants, but she wasn't sure how much longer they might be able to stay.

The change means that "folks on this waitlist are going to wait a long time to find temporary shelter," Goodwin said. "I don't yet know what it means for the folks at the Quality Inn."

For her part, she said she was "just in a wait-and-see mode."

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.


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