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Listen: Will James on telling the story of Tacoma's Merkle Hotel, its final residents

Merkle Hotel
Will James
To some, the Merkle Hotel was a symbol of urban blight. It's seen here in 2018, with plywood covering broken windows.

KNKX Special Projects reporter Will James first visited the Merkle Hotel in 2018. It was one of the last residential hotels in western Washington, catering to some of Tacoma’s poorest people because of its extremely cheap rent. At the time, it was closing.

A new landlord was preparing to renovate the building. James’ reporting showed that, with no other affordable options, some tenants were forced into homelessness.

Three years later, James tracked down some of those former residents to see where they are now, and it created a picture of the forces driving homelessness in the region and their effect on people’s lives.

His three-part series aired last week. James sat down with Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick to talk about it. Hear their conversation by clicking "Listen" above.

You can read the series on the Merkle Hotel here. The music you hear at the end of this interview is by former Merkle tenant Dean Tsapralis, who makes music as “Dean the Dreamweaver."

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