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Residents evicted from Gateway Hotel

By: Melissa Gundersen EL PASO, Texas -- People who are living and staying inside a downtown El Paso hotel are left without a place to call home after the city evicted them Monday without any notice.

The Gateway Hotel has been shut down. This comes after city fire marshals and code inspectors investigated and labeled the hotel a hazard.   It started with a routine inspection two weeks ago and then a follow up Monday.

"There were some fire code violations that the Fire Department had come in and conducted an inspection. During that inspection we found some other violations that we brought in additional city entities to help us ensure the safety of the residents in the building," said Assistant Fire Chief Calvin Shanks.

Shanks said there are problems with the hotel's plumbing, electrical system, gas lines and fire safety system, including the sprinklers.

"If something were to occur, we would have a very difficult time getting everybody out safely if something were to occur in this building," said Shanks.

Residents have since been evicted.  People were seen walking out of the hotel carrying bags of their belongings.  Shanks said occupants will be allowed back in the building within the next few days to gather any other belongings that were left behind.

One man was seen outside the hotel yelling profanities.

"Where the hell am I supposed to go now? I'm disabled! A shelter?" he said.

Fire crews said the majority of residents went to the opportunity center and the rescue alliance for shelter. Felipe Avila, who has lived in the Gateway Hotel since March, said he will be staying at a shelter until he can find somewhere else to stay.

"It would have been nice if they had given us some warning. If the city would have given us some warning or something you know, but they didn't," said Avila.

Avila said he noticed city inspectors checking out the building a few weeks ago.

"The plumbing is really bad. It's bad. I'm not going to lie, it is bad, but we have nowhere else to go," said Avila.

But not realizing he would be evicted, Avila said he just paid his $370 rent.

"I really doubt I'm getting that money back," said Avila.

Residents said they plan to take legal action if they don't get their money back.

Shanks said it could take the hotel's owners a few months or longer to get the building up to code, but until that happens no one will be allowed to stay there.

Shanks also said the hotel's owners may face fines and citations.  He said owners may have to appear in court.