JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Dozens of people were displaced Monday night after the City of Jacksonville forced Gold Rush Inn to close.
The Department of Business and Professional Regulation closed the motel due to a history of violent crime.
Councilman Reginald Gaffney said many guests used the motel as their home. While they were displaced by the closure, the city is helping them find new places to stay either in another motel or by giving them a $1,200 voucher that will go to a landlord.
“When this process started, I wasn’t concerned about people being homeless, I was concerned about the crime,” Gaffney said.
According to Gaffney, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office responded to more than 200 calls at the motel in the last three months alone. He said eight homicides have occurred at the motel in a year.
“I had 15 to 50 calls saying, 'Councilman Gaffney, please close it down.' Everyone was scared to come down Harts Road,” Gaffney said.
Gaffney added the guests should not have had to live in those conditions.
For example, guests told First Coast News rooms had holes in the walls and cockroaches.
“To see how some of the rooms looked, it brought tears to my eyes because that’s all they had," Gaffney explained.
For the dozens of guests who called the motel home, many told First Coast News they are distraught as to what will happen next.
“They just displaced all of these people out here with no where to go,” James, a former maintenance man and guest at the motel, said. “I was content. I was happy, because I didn’t have to worry about where I was going to sleep."
James and his neighbor Eboni Rierce, who has lived at the motel for a year, said often times, those committing crimes on the premise did not live there.
“This is where they come and do their dirt,” James said.
“The people who have been causing the problems, they’re no longer here,” Eboni said, showing the peaceful guests checking out.
Many guests said the motel is a community that has tried to protect each other from the crime that has happened on the premise. They wish the city would have tried to do the same before displacing them.
“They say there were over 200 police calls out here,” James said. “That’s a sign this place needs help. They never showed up.”
To start the process of shutting down this motel, Gaffney said he had to go to the state. He said he is proposing new legislation to create a taskforce that can review similar properties and give the city the power to shut them down if needed.