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Relevant issues for this story, separated by commas (eg. war, race, gender):
Poverty, Drug Abuse
Geographical region for this story (eg. Africa, Middle East, Southeast Asia):
North America
Relevant key words for this story, separated by commas (eg. Africa, Hurricane Katrina, Mother Teresa):
Kentucky, Appalachia, Motel, Homelessness
A short summary for this story that will go on the stories page (1-2 sentences):
For an eclectic group of families, seasonal workers, transients and drug addicts in western Kentucky, home is a room in one of the many “no-star” motels that can be found in and around almost any town in western Kentucky. Yet despite the isolation these motels would seem to provide, the permanency of the residents’ stays creates a sense of community.
Aaron Borton

2008 — student award of excellence

For many, “home” may be a two-story house in the suburbs, a loft in the city, a rented apartment or even government-assisted housing.

For an eclectic group of families, seasonal workers, transients and drug addicts in western Kentucky, however, home is a room in one of the many “no-star” motels that can be found in and around almost any town in this region.

Originally, these motels were built to accommodate travelers visiting area tourist attractions. Due to the seasonal nature of such attractions, motel owners needed another way to make money when business was slow. They began to allow people to rent the rooms for extended periods of time, which then began attracting a different kind of customer.

These new customers come from varying walks of life, and their reasons for living in a motel are just as varied. Some families become motel residents because they have fallen through the cracks of government housing-assistance projects. For them, a motel is a cheaper alternative to most housing – at least in the short run – because motel owners do not require large deposits or lease payments. The motels also do not have a waiting list or require a criminal background check, like government housing in the area.

Yet despite the isolation these motels would seem to provide, the permanency of the residents’ stays creates a sense of community.

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Residents at the Travel Motel Inn play basketball in the parking lot.  The basketball goal was recently stolen so residents can no longer play. Aaron Borton/Alexia Foundation
Richard Valone came to Cave City’s Countryside Inn in 2003 to stay the night and has been living in the motel ever since. Nearly all the single men living in the motels suffer from depression and substance-abuse problems. Valone no longer works. He is divorced and lives off of n inheritance left to him by his father. “I’ve just reached a point where I don’t know where to go next,” Valone says. “The situation is happily hopeless.” Residents are no longer allowed to swim in the pool since the health department shut it down. It’s now home to catfish and tadpoles. Aaron Borton/Alexia Foundation
Betty Bryant (left), Chris Johnson, Tiffany Kitchens, David Ballard, Harley Brown and Kathy Brown hang out in the parking lot of Cave Land Motel in Cave City, Ky., after grilling out and sharing rum and beer. Harley tries to convince his mom to let his brother drive them home, because she has been drinking. Kathy has a suspended license and continues to drive anyway. Aaron Borton/Alexia Foundation
Scotty Meredith (left) and Kevin Tascano sit in hiding behind the Horse Cave Motel, Horse Cave, Ky. Kevin's mom, Sujata Tascano, operates the motel with help from her sons. Kevin and Ian Tascano enjoy spending free time with friends, although their “hanging out” time is usually interrupted by work. Aaron Borton/Alexia Foundation
Although Beth and Dameon Ford have three children, only two live with them. Gracie, Beth and Dameon’s oldest child, lives with Beth's parents. She visits once or twice a week to play with her sisters. “We just can’t keep up with all three of them,” Beth says. Aaron Borton/Alexia Foundation
Resident Tammy Brown, 17, is engaged to be married. For now, she still lives in the motel with her family. “It’s tough,” Brown says. “There is no privacy.” Aaron Borton/Alexia Foundation
Leona Sanchez, one of several children who live at the Countryside Inn Motel, looks up at Kathy Brown (right). Leona's mother, D. D. Sanchez and Brown just finished smoking a joint. "I needed to get high; my case worker has been here all morning,” Brown says. Brown and Sanchez are both under investigation for child neglect. Aaron Borton/Alexia Foundation
Jessica Lucas holds daughter Kiana outside Jessica’s mom and dad’s motel room. She and her husband recently got an apartment, so they no longer have to live in the motel. They still live close by, so the kids can see their grandparents often. Aaron Borton/Alexia Foundation
Residents Ian (left) and Kevin Tascano celebrate Independence Day by setting off bottle rockets in front of their mom’s motel, the Horse Cave Motel, Horse Cave, Ky. Aaron Borton/Alexia Foundation
Bangladesh native Sujata Tascano (right) owns and operates the Horse Cave Motel, Horse Cave, Ky.  Sujata also lives in the motel with her two sons Ian (left) and Kevin (not pictured). Having few customers, and some of whom are unable to pay all of their rent, makes it hard for Sujata to pay the bills. She is trying to sell the motel, but has not yet had any success. Sujata could run the business on her own if her husband lived with them, she says. "He lives in New York; he won’t help me out because he is lazy. He does not send any money -- how am I supposed to raise two kids and run a business with no money?” Sujata said. Her husband wants a divorce, but Sujata will not sign the divorce papers. Aaron Borton/Alexia Foundation