THE HAMILTON SPECTATOR, JUNE 14, 2013.
A neighbour with a truck said he’d help her move, but Kim Coulas has been waiting all day. When she tries calling, his phone is off.
“I’m screwed,” she says, removing a cigarette from a large Ziploc bag. “I don’t know what the hell I’m going to do.”
It’s 4:30 p.m. on Thursday. City staff are standing in the parking lot, waiting for the keys to the City Motor Hotel. It was supposed to be vacant by now.
Romolo D’Angelo, the city’s director of facilities management and capital programs, says 10 rooms were occupied when they arrived in the morning.
Most people left without incident, but Coulas is one of two still here. Her belongings are packed and stacked in duffel bags and wicker baskets outside her room, but she can’t move them alone.
She calls another friend and waits some more.
Coulas says she doesn’t know where she’ll go when they show up. She’s been here for a month, ever since she and her husband divorced and she left her rented house.
“Divorce was easier,” she says of living at the hotel.
She’s been here once before — a decade ago, when she moved to Hamilton from Beaver Creek, Yukon. She says the same people owned it, but it was a lot nicer then.
“They just took this place and they ran it into the ground,” she says, pushing a busted pane of Plexiglas out of the window of her room and leaning through. “Every cent they could get out of it they milked it and that was it. It’s a shame.”
Down in the courtyard, owner Ted Dabrowski’s daughter screams at a photographer. Coulas says the daughter has searched her room in the past, trying to bust her for having more than her allotted sheet, her single towel.
Coulas’s friends arrive with a car and cups of Tim Hortons. They go into her room and close the door.
Outside, Jason Fraser, 41, leans against the hotel balcony’s white plastic latticework and calls down to one of the managers.
“Me and him get along,” he says. “We’re brothers pretty much … when he’s drunk and he passes out, I come wake him up: ‘Hey look, you got somebody at the front desk.’ I’m like the eyes of the neighbourhood around here.”
And it is like a neighbourhood, Fraser says. The hotel has had problems, but it’s like any community — some good eggs, some bad.
Fraser moved here two years ago when he was released from Barton Street jail. He can’t remember what he was in for.
He left last spring when he was arrested in relation to a decade-old case and charged with robbery, and accessory after the fact to murder. When he got off (he says they had no evidence), he moved back in.
Fraser will head to his girlfriend’s dad’s place eventually (she’s there now), but it’s not going to happen soon. He rents three rooms — one to sleep in and two for storage. He’s called three people to help him move, but no one has shown up yet.
According to D’Angelo, Fraser will have Thursday night if he needs it. The city is allowing for flexibility on the vacancy, but if anyone is still there Friday, it will consult its legal department.
“Tomorrow we have bins coming in and we’re ready to start working on this place,” D’Angelo says. “For us, it’s full steam ahead. We’re moving on this pretty quickly.”
He says a demolition company will be engaged within days.
By August, the City Motor Hotel will be gone.