Klamath Tribes Melita’s Hotel to provide temporary housing for tribal elders

Klamath Tribes Melita’s Hotel to provide temporary housing for tribal elders

The Klamath Tribes is expanding housing options to its tribal members at the former Melita’s Hotel and Restaurant on the southbound side of Highway 97 north of Chiloquin Boulevard. The Tribes purchased the property last year and began renovating it in January. Kenneth Ruthardt, the Klamath Tribes Housing Director, provided insight into the meticulous process, from acquiring funding to becoming a reality.

Melita’s Hotel, which will be given a formal name through an online poll, received final touches in mid-May with the furnishing of the units.

When entering a one-bedroom unit, the first thing one notices is the smooth vinyl flooring, along with sinks and countertops, absent appliances, on the opposite end of the kitchen/living area. To the left of the entrance is the doorway to the bedroom and bathroom.

“This is the living area,” said Ruthardt during a tour of the 14 units. “We’ve got Corian countertops, which are very nice, and soft-close cabinets.” In addition, each unit includes 16 cubic-foot refrigerators, induction cooktop burners, and microwaves. “We’ll also have pots and pans for them, as well as for the hotel guests,” he added.

Every bedroom has a queen-sized bed, and grab bars are installed throughout each unit’s bathroom to ensure easy access and mobility. The hotel project will accommodate solely tribal elders ages 60 and up. Guests need not apply for a hotel room or unit, but they do need to be housing insecure, Ruthardt explained.

A furnished apartment at Melita’s Hotel. (Ken Smith/Klamath Tribes News)

Seven studio units in the north building will be furnished and equipped with the same appliances as their one-bedroom counterparts occupying the south building. Each hotel room will accommodate no more than two elder tribal members or guests. Laundry will be on-site, and a no-pets policy will be implemented.

Citing a severe housing shortage in Klamath County and the financial obligations of securing housing, Ruthardt said guests can stay as long as necessary. “Some of them probably indefinitely because it’s so expensive [securing housing elsewhere],” he said. “They’re going to have to make a down payment. So, people who move in here are more than likely going to be here for the duration.”

Guests staying at the hotel will not have to pay monthly rent, providing them with financial flexibility and more peace of mind while they seek housing. Ruthardt stressed that the people they are servicing are able-bodied and self-sufficient but do not have a residence to call their own due to various circumstances.

“The Oregon Community Foundation purchased the property and also provided the million dollars to do the renovations,” said Ruthardt. “Then Oregon Housing and Community Services came through with some other funding to help us finish the renovations and provide permanent supportive housing.”

Ruthardt pointed out that the project at completion will have cost around $1.5 million. While over budget, he added that the north building had to be almost entirely rebuilt due to severe, unforeseen structural degradation. As a result of delays incurred, Ruthardt does not expect elders to move into the north building until the second week of June.

The building where the restaurant used to be will provide offices for the Klamath Tribes Housing Department and a community room equipped with a kitchen for guests to utilize. “In there, we’ll be putting the property manager and a navigator – who’s on staff to help guests navigate wherever they need to go,” said Ruthardt, explaining that a worker will be on staff to help guests with transportation needs who might not have their own means of transportation.

Extensive renovations are still taking place, and Ruthardt has pegged completion for phase one of the project, comprising the three buildings, sometime in October.

After the tour of the three buildings concluded, Ruthardt touched on the pace of construction as deadlines neared. “It was a lot of work,” he said. “Getting a lot of people here involved in coordinating the contractors. At one point, we had about 40 or 50 people here daily, tradespeople working because we had deadlines for the money. We got an extension and had that deadline to meet. And now we’re done because we’ve got to get new people in here who need a place to live.”

With the project nearing completion, Ruthardt offered a glimpse of future projects in the pipeline, one of which requires a couple of minor steps before construction can commence.

“We just were approved for a low-income housing tax credit project to build 30 units at Wilson Cemetery Road,” he said. “That’ll be 30 units under one roof – a multifamily building – probably about a two-year project. And that’s going to be very time consuming and a lot of moving parts. So, the first step is getting the tribal council to accept the award they were given that they applied for and we received. And then I think the second step is getting the General Council on board as well, to get their blessing. And if they say, ‘Yes,’ then we’ll go full-speed ahead because we do have people occupying that December of 2026.”

The Klamath Tribes Housing Department will not hold a grand opening for Melita’s, said Ruthardt, citing the need to get people housed as paramount, but an open house will be held July 1. Oregon Governor Tina Kotek is expected to attend, among others. “We’re going to invite all local dignitaries,” Ruthardt said, “state dignitaries, all the government agencies that have been involved, and other tribal housing authorities as well, so they can see what we can make realistic to help Indian people.”