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Homelessness Prevention

Homeless Man

 

O.W. has lived at the same motel for the last four years. He worked for the motel during the day mowing the lawns and doing other maintenance duties, where he earned credit points to pay for his room. Once those duties came to an end, O. could no longer stay in the motel and had to leave the property. O.'s living arrangements consisted of staying overnight with friends and at the cold shelter whenever the outside temperature was below 32 degrees.

 

Living at the motel for as long as he did gave O. the opportunity to apply for a tax refund from both Stafford County and the Commonwealth of Virginia (if you live at a hotel more than 30 days, the tourist tax does not apply any more). When he went to the manager of the motel to do so, Mr. P. gave him many reasons why he did not qualify. O.W. told his story to Ellyn Hartzler, a homelessness prevention paralegal at Rappahannock Legal Services, who then called Mr. P. and explained that neither Mr. P. nor the motel was responsible for paying the money, and that the money due to O.W. was a simple refund processed through the Commonwealth. Ellyn had dealt with Mr. P. and his illegal reasoning in the past, so when he began to give her the excuses of why O.W. didn't qualify, she knew how to react. She told Mr. P. to file the necessary paperwork immediately or she would have an attorney demand that.

 

Ellyn continued to emphasize to O.W. the importance of calling the intake hotline so that an attorney could work with him and help him gain what was rightfully his. O.W. said he would call the hotline but never seemed to get around to it. His excuse was always that he didn't have a phone, didn't have time or had to work. Over the course of the next few weeks, O.W. stopped coming into the homeless shelter and Ellyn has not heard whether he pursued his right to the hotel tax refund.