Man in wheelchair in motel
Steve Foley, 69, lives a converted motel in San Jose. He said workers banned his caretaker from the property, which prevents him from getting the assistance he needs. Photo by Joyce Chu.

A San Jose motel riddled with mold and roaches that houses formerly homeless residents is in ownership limbo as a continued slew of problems plague the property no matter who operates it.

The former SureStay, a motel-turned-housing site that provides rooms for older adults and disabled individuals, was supposed to change ownership from San Jose to the Santa Clara County Housing Authority last year. But delays have held up the process, as residents complain of mistreatment by workers and ongoing dangerous living conditions.

“The Santa Clara County Housing Authority has submitted requested documentation for the property at North First Street (formerly known as SureStay),” Preston Prince, executive director of the Santa Clara County Housing Authority, told San José Spotlight. “It is currently in the state review process. Once the required approvals are obtained, we will proceed with finalizing the ownership.”

The city has also submitted all necessary paperwork and is waiting to see whether further action is needed, San Jose Housing Director Erik Solivan told San José Spotlight.

The county’s housing authority has been in operational control of the motel since fall 2023, contracting with supportive services nonprofit HomeFirst, which took over providing food, case management and application assistance from LifeMoves last October.

SureStay motel in downtown
Residents are complaining their needs are not being met and they are living in conditions dangerous to their health. Photo by Joyce Chu.

Living at motel under the current conditions is detrimental to some residents’ physical and mental health, including Laura Laform, who lives in a mold-infested room.

Laform, 65, has asthma and an autoimmune disease. She keeps the door or window open at all times — otherwise, it’s hard for her to breathe. Laform has complained repeatedly to workers about the mold, but they have yet to address it. She said the motel employees don’t clean her room, and she has to shampoo her own carpet and clean her own curtains.

“It’s terrible,” Laform told San José Spotlight. “My lungs are really bothering me. It’s affecting my well-being.”

Woman at motel
Laura Laform, 65, has asthma and an autoimmune disease, causing her to struggle with breathing in her mold-infested room. Photo by Joyce Chu.

Last week, she said an employee called the cops on her because she had violated a newly-instituted rule: residents can only have one visitor in the room. She had two people in the room — her caretaker and driver.

“We are not being treated like human beings anymore,” Laform said.

Mold in motel room
Mold spots in Laura Laform’s room. Photo by Joyce Chu.

HomeFirst spokesperson Lori Smith said the nonprofit cannot comment on “personal information about a participant’s experience.”

Prince said any previous mold issues have been addressed and that a pest control company comes bi-weekly for residents that want their room to be treated.

The former motel is one of San Jose’s first repurposed hotel projects purchased with nearly $12 million of Project Homekey dollars, bought at the peak of the pandemic in an effort to offer shelter and services to help unhoused residents. The city originally handled operations while homeless service providers took care of case management and other resources.

After multiple complaints of dirty water pouring out of faucets, mold and holes in the ceiling, San Jose removed itself and Abode Services from management in October 2022, noting managing the site was not in the city’s “wheelhouse.”

Steve Foley, 69, whose legs are swollen red from open wounds and sepsis, said it’s been difficult to get his daily needs met without his caretaker. His caretaker had been banned from the property for weeks by HomeFirst employees, according to Foley.

Foley said his caretaker was waiting in the car for her ride home when workers from HomeFirst told the caretaker she wasn’t allowed on the property.

“They know she is my caretaker,” Foley told San José Spotlight. “They are denying me my care.”

Other residents have complained that workers have not been empathetic to their health needs. One disabled resident has been asking for help with his application to get an In Home Supportive Services caretaker, but has received no assistance.

Though residents said they went without a working laundry machine for weeks, it is now functional. Prince said the housing authority has worked to address the property’s maintenance issues through third party contractors, and that residents can get free weekly washing of bedding if they want it starting this month.

“We are aware of past issues with the washer and have always addressed them promptly when informed,” Prince said.

HomeFirst has made some improvements, including holding monthly community meetings with residents, Smith said. The organization provides services such as help with applications, case managers and financial assistance.

But residents said they have never received assistance from HomeFirst, nor have they been notified by employees when there are openings for permanent housing. Residents said they’ve brought up multiple issues during the monthly community meetings that seem to not be heard.

“What services are they providing for us?” Laform said. “They are not doing their jobs.”

Contact Joyce Chu at [email protected] or @Joyce_Speaks on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Editor’s note: The property formerly known as Surestay was purchased by San Jose and repurposed to service the homeless, disabled and older individuals. It is now operated by HomeFirst.


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