Peach State Legislators Accomplished At Causing Homelessness
Shortly after telling my lie, I drove by the once-stately Oglethorpe Inn in Calhoun, GA. As this little video I've made will show, the Oglethorpe has had better days. My history with this motel goes back a mere 2 of its 40+years, but I’m like a dog with a bone, just can’t let it go when I know it’s got meat on it, as when elected officials’ nefarious behavior harms their vulnerable children and adults constituents.
Once the Oglethorpe shifted from being a vacation resort and business traveler stop, it became the better-than-worst last resort for income and housing challenged families and individuals from the Calhoun and Gordon County area. At $99 a week, it provided what passed for affordable housing in this homeless shelter-less area.
In 2007, the good-ol’-boy lawmaker team, DBA Tich Hospitality, decided to buy and fix up this interstate ramp eyesore motel. Congressman Tom Graves (R-Georgia) and (former) State Senator Chip Rogers approached a local bank and walked away with a $2.2 million loan. Things didn’t go well, and in February 2011, the Oglethorpe exhaled its last breath and with it, beleaguered tenants spilled out.
In 2011, the righteous Congressman know for his high profile stance for fiscal responsibility, settled out of court after a flurry of lawsuits (more of the story). And the “virtuous” Mr. Rogers who “as a Republican leader…successfully sponsored and passed numerous bills, including Georgia's recent charter-school amendment, immigration reform and a crackdown on dogfighting,” seems to have escaped the worst of the Oglethorpe cloud, but has bowed out of his leadership role in the GA legislature.
Both politicians seem to have come out of this smelling like Georgia peaches. Congressman Graves and (former) State Sen. Rogers (who recently resigned and is astoundingly working for Georgia Public Broadcasting) must have done some fancy footwork to avoid paying their loans. Too bad they can’t teach those dance steps to the 47%.
The lesser-reported, more important story, though, concerns the vulnerable 80 adults and children lost their humble “homes” as a result of this travesty.
The demise of this hotel has further devastated the vulnerably housed population in Tom and Chip’s stomping grounds. Thanks to the economic shambles these elected fiscally responsible officials failed to curtail, jobs have been slashed, out-of-business signs, abandoned buildings and vacant houses mar this otherwise pleasant community in the picturesque foothills of NW Georgia. Despite gallant efforts from compassionate locals, Calhoun and surrounding areas struggle for a pulse. And the city is trying to figure out how to come up with money to demolish what’s left of Tom and Chip’s motel.
Trouble with the deeds surrounding the Oglethorpe, and countless places like it nationwide, is the abysmal lack of local vigilance and advocacy that allows these activities to go unnoticed, unpunished or prevent them from happening in the first place. Local activists have their hands full with a plethora of crises, thanks to the economic fallout. Disturbingly, voters keep electing the people that do them the most harm.
Nationwide, motels continue to inadequately serve as the pseudo-homeless-shelters of the 21st Century. Resort communities surrounding Disney-fueled Orlando feature literally thousands of homeless families stuck in motels that cost hundreds a week. All along my travels, motels are filled with homeless families and individuals.
Meanwhile, we have too-big-to-jail banks holding bogus loans on millions of foreclosed housing units, and inept federal legislators and bureaucrats insist they can’t find money to alleviate homelessness. Here’s what I’d suggest:
- Congressman Graves could be a big help, considering the committees he sits on. Appropriate billions more for affordable housing, health care and mental health services, adequate family supports, unemployment funding, and the like.
- Former State Senator Rogers could make sure public radio investigates dirty homeless-causing deeds in other communities.
- The Tom and Chip team could channel their resources to the city of Calhoun to pay for the demolition of the Oglethorpe.
- And last, but not least, make those poor lil’ bankers turn over the vacant housing to those who’ve managed to hang onto their motel room through these past few years.
As a little girl raised in Catholic schools, I learned that lying was wrong and you had to make reparation for your sins. I sheepishly gave the woman who cut my hair a sizable tip. Right is right, wrong is wrong. Time for the boys to kneel on broken glass, of which they’ll find plenty at their old motel. This ol’ dog’s gonna be watching.