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My Letter to Homewood Suites Management Regarding Levy Family Situation | August 6, 2021

Friday August 6, 2021

Mr. August Richardson, General Manager of Homewood Suites by Hilton and Ms. Gillian Potts, Finance Manager of Homewood Suites by Hilton:

I am writing out of concern for David and Lakesha Levy, Seattle residents who contacted my City Council office about their dire housing situation. I urge your hotel to cancel the $3,384 rental debt they currently have to the Homewood Suites by Hilton. I also urge you to do the same for any other working-class renters who have accumulated Covid-related rental debt to your hotel due to loss of job and/or income. 

It is my understanding that the Levy family, which includes their nine-year-old son, stayed at your hotel for nearly nine months beginning in November 2020. The Levys paid your hotel a total of $18,548 over 49 payments during that time. They did so despite both David and Lakesha losing their jobs and significant income due to the pandemic, and suffering work-related injuries. Yet you and the hotel’s management decided to force the family to leave on August 1 because of a $3,384 debt that you will apparently send to collections in 90 days. It is shameful that Governor Inslee and the Democratic-dominated state Legislature decided to end, on July 31, the statewide eviction moratorium, which protected residents of extended stay hotels such as yours. But an end to the eviction moratorium does not excuse the unwillingness of your hotel, managed by the massive Hilton Worldwide corporation, to extend basic compassion towards a family that includes a child, a family that the management was aware had almost no remaining housing options.

The Levy family’s desperate circumstances contrast sharply with those of Hilton Worldwide, which has assets totaling $16.75 billion as of 2020. It is outrageous that the Levy family has paid so much and are still facing the very real prospect of becoming homeless, all because of a $3,384 debt to a multibillion dollar corporate hotel chain. I recognize that you are carrying out decisions made by higher-up corporate executives. I am urging you and those corporate executives to do the right thing and cancel all of the $3,384 rental debt that the family has to the Homewood Suites by Hilton.

Currently, the family is staying at a nearby hotel using rewards points they accumulated while paying your hotel nearly $19,000. Throughout their nine-month stay at your hotel, the Levys have continually been forced to pay an unsustainably large portion of their modest earnings to keep up with ongoing charges, while attempting to pay down the debt to your hotel and save up to be able to move into a rental home at the same time. They have taken out loans and even exhausted their 401K funds, just to survive and keep a roof over their head and protect their child. Caught in a vicious cycle of debt, they were never able to raise the money needed to get approved to move into a rental home, even though they have carried out a months-long and indefatigable apartment search. 

David and Lakesha lost their home in April 2020 at the start of the pandemic, and began living in extended stay hotels to survive. In the months that followed, like millions of working people across the country, both David and Lakesha lost their jobs and significant income. David used to work as a chef (at a Hilton hotel, no less), and was a proud member of UNITE HERE Local 8. He lost his job in March 2020, though he was able to find work shortly thereafter. One month ago, however, he fractured his knee on the job and hasn’t been able to work since. Lakesha lost her job as a homecare worker in September of last year because she could not both work and help their son with his online schooling. She still has yet to receive unemployment benefits. Millions of women, and disproportionately women of color, have lost their jobs in this way during the pandemic.

The Levys’ predicament is not unique at this moment. Millions of renters nationwide faced job and income losses during the Covid-19 pandemic and have been forced to incur unprecedented amounts of debt. Seattle’s landlords have increased rents by 21.6 percent just since January (double the national rate), a rent increase of $3,816/year for an average apartment. This is causing further displacement and homelessness, with the Black and Brown community suffering disproportionate impacts. David, Lakesha, and Cole appear terrifyingly close to joining the estimated 12,000 people in Seattle living without a home, in spite of all their best efforts. 

The Homewood Suites by Hilton can afford to write off the Levy family’s $3,384 of debt in order to resolve a situation that is neither in the family’s nor in the public interest. 

The Levy family, along with all working-class renters, struggling homeowners, and struggling small businesses, deserve to not be devastated by the pandemic through no fault of their own, while the wealthy have become even wealthier. The Covid-19 pandemic cost the global economy trillions of dollars, and somebody will have to pay. It should be big business and billionaires and multimillionaires, not working-class families like the Levys, who pay for the crisis. Once again, I urge you to do the right thing and cancel all of the $3,384 rental debt that the Levy family has to the Homewood Suites by Hilton, and do the same for any others who accumulated Covid-related rental debt at your hotel. 

Sincerely,

Kshama Sawant

Seattle City Councilmember

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