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Lancaster hotel residents abruptly evicted; site could be demolished

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Scott Morgan
/
South Carolina Public Radio
By Thursday morning, all traces of business were gone from Carriage Inn and the last few residents were leaving with their belongings. This site, which was a candidate to be Lancaster County's first permanent homeless shelter, could instead be torn down by month's end.

On Thursday afternoon, the last few residents of Carriage Inn in Lancaster were driving away with their belongings. They had been told barely a day earlier that they had less than 24 hours to vacate.

The news came as a shock to even Holly Furr, the executive director of United Way-Lancaster, who said she didn’t learn of the evictions until the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office was already at the hotel, where utilities had already been shut off and residents were already packing up.

Furr, whose agency is part of Lancaster Area Coalition for the Homeless (LACH) and is working with as many as eight families on relocation and assistance, said the hotel’s owner, Indus Hospitality LLC, was informed “at least a month and a half ago” that its relationship with the owner of the land would be terminated by March 1. That’s because Indus reportedly had failed to pay property taxes and back rent. It is not clear how much was owed.

Furr said the landowner had paid the taxes for the hotel owner, but that Indus never paid the landowner its due back rent; and that Indus did not until Tuesday inform residents that they would have to move out.

By Thursday morning, all traces of staff were gone from Carriage Inn; the phone number for Indus Hospitality has been disconnected.

Furr says that to her knowledge, no one has talked with Indus; she said that’s been an issue for residents who paid for a full week in advance – rates were roughly $300 per week – and who want some of their money back.

Furr said that Indus had received money in rental assistance from federal CARES funding, but it is unknown how much. In March of 2021, Indus received $28,000 in federal Payment Protection Plan money to help float 12 employees. According to FederalPay.org, “This loan has been disbursed by the lender and has not yet been fully repaid or forgiven. The exact status of ongoing loans is not released by the SBA.”

Furr said that United Way-Lancaster and LACH are “working to help as many people as possible. Some of the people we spoke with on Tuesday had other arrangements they could make.” She’s also spoken with neighboring communities in Lancaster and York counties, where space for displaced tenants is hard to find.

“Space is our biggest enemy,” she said. “We just don’t have it. A lot of the hotels in town here are full, and, unfortunately – and this is just the nature of the beast – if an individual is on a ban list from a hotel we can’t put them up there.”

Lancaster County has no permanent homeless shelter. Ironically, Carriage Inn was a candidate to serve as the county’s default homeless shelter, Furr said. But the building, no longer a site for business, may be torn down within two weeks, she added.

Furr also said that money set aside to find a shelter is specifically earmarked for that purpose and cannot be used for emergency eviction assistance for suddenly displaced tenants.

“One of the shelters in Rock Hill is full,” she said. “The other has a 90-day waiting list.”

It is not clear how many families or residents have been displaced, but ithe number could be as many as 20 families.