JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Guests of an Arlington motel say they were forced out on the streets Thursday after the motel failed a fire inspection earlier this week.
The Jacksonville Fire Marshal ordered the Regency Inn on Arlington Expressway to shut down after an inspection Tuesday uncovered nearly a dozen fire code violations, according to the inspection report.
Motel guests were given two days to clear out their belongings, sending them scrambling in search of answers and places to stay on short notice.
The business will remain closed until further notice, or until the issues are properly addressed.
One guest, Heather Bradley, said she has lived at the Regency Inn for a year. But when she was released from the hospital Thursday, she came home to find most of her possessions gone.
“All my property that I have had all my life, like my kids’ pictures, things I can’t replace, they just threw out,” said Bradley, who added that she has no place to go since she has no living relatives.
She isn’t alone. Other guests told News4Jax that, like Bradley, they weren’t sure where they’d go next.
“I came here from being homeless. And now I’m probably going to be back out anyway,” Stephanie Foster said. “I am praying for a miracle.”
According to a copy of the fire inspection report, inspectors found 11 fire code violations, including a lack of a sprinkler system and working smoke detectors. Other violations included a failure to ensure there were self-closing doors on site and structural issues with balconies.
When a News4Jax crew visited the motel on Thursday, a reporter was greeted by a security guard who told the news crew to leave.
“We are closed and will open in a few days,” the unnamed security guard said.
Fire Marshal Kevin Jones said inspectors found no sprinkler system when they showed up Tuesday. He said the motel has a fire alarm system, but smoke detectors were disabled in 75 percent of the rooms.
Because the Regency Inn is a hotel, Jones said, guests may only stay there for 30 days. But, he said, 39 occupants living at the motel Tuesday had been staying there longer than the 30-day deadline.
With so many guests living there longer than a month, Jones said the motel is considered a dormitory, so the fire code requires the business to have a working sprinkler system installed.
Only 43 of the motel rooms were occupied Thursday, down from 105 during Tuesday’s inspection.
Ronny Minister was among the guests who could be found outside the Regency Inn on Thursday. He said he was there when the motel was “raided” Tuesday morning. “It was unsafe here,” he said.
Jones, the city fire marshal, said a similar order was issued a few years back. He compared conditions at the Regency Inn to those inspectors found at the Gold Rush Inn on Jacksonville’s Northside.
He said the motel’s management is required to reimburse tenants who are being displaced.
Some of the medically vulnerable guests who were displaced are receiving assistance from Changing Homelessness, a nonprofit that seeks to end homelessness, CEO Dawn Gilman told News4Jax.
But some guests like Foster are struggling to figure out how to pick up the pieces. After a four-day stay in the hospital, she’s at a loss. She’s been told to leave, but she has no ride or place to stay.
“I don’t know,” she said. “I don’t know what I am supposed to do.”