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After more than a year, family may soon check out of motel
Worker’s comp claim may help Colombian group of five find a permanent home
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From left, Adolfo Cuartas, his granddaughter Esmeralda and his wife Olga sit on the bed inside their hotel room at Budgetel Inn & Suites where they have lived for the past year in Gainesville, on Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. - photo by David Barnes

Room 135 at the Budgetel Inn & Suites on Jesse Jewell Parkway has been the permanent address now the past two Thanksgiving Day holidays for a Colombian family of five.

Adolfo Cuartas and his wife, Olga, are praying they will not have to spend their second Christmas cramped in a room where most of the space is taken up by two beds.

The family nucleus includes their 17-year-old daughter, Diana, and her 2-month-old baby girl, Catalina.

Catalina’s little crib cradles the space between the two beds.

Bright-eyed and bubbly 6-year-old Esmeralda, a first-grader at Centennial Arts Academy, completes the tight-knit family.

“It’s very uncomfortable, as you can imagine,” Adolfo Cuartas, who soon turns 60, told The Times in Spanish. “Living like this is very hard.”

In October, The Times profiled the Cuartas family’s plight during its series on poverty in Hall County.

Adolfo held a manufacturing job in Oakwood with a company that custom makes plastic sheets and rolls. The job paid him $14.35 an hour, but as the only breadwinner in the family, it was hard for him to keep up with the $950 payments on a three-bedroom, two-bath home he was renting in Oakwood on top of other living expenses.

To save money with hopes of buying a mobile home, Adolfo moved his family to the Gainesville motel. He figured that by not having to pay utilities at the motel that he would soon have enough for a down payment on a mobile home.

Those plans were dashed when he almost severed three fingers at his job. He was rushed to Northeast Georgia Medical Center where he was treated and pumped with pain killers. Adolfo said blood samples required by his job for worker’s compensation were taken at the hospital after he had been administered pain medicine, and he was subsequently fired when he tested positive.

It’s very uncomfortable, as you can imagine. Living like this is very hard.
Adolfo Cuartas

Forced to take the worker’s compensation case to court in the summer, it was not until last month that a hearing was held after multiple delays, and Adolfo was granted benefits. He said that after legal bills are paid, the family will receive a check for approximately $12,000 that will finally get them out of the motel.

In the meantime, the family struggles to make it through each day.

Olga Cuartas, 53, has been in and out of the emergency room at the hospital with complications from her type 1 diabetes. Adolfo drives her four times a week to undergo dialysis because both of her kidneys are failing.

“I’m unable to help my family because of my condition,” said Olga, who complains she’s also losing her eyesight.

Adolfo said he’s up before 6 in the morning on weekdays so he can prepare, dress and walk Esmeralda to the front entrance of the motel where the school bus picks her up at 6:30. Adolfo makes sure he’s there to meet Esmeralda when the bus drops her off early in the afternoon.

Olga and Adolfo have raised Esmeralda since she was a baby born to their older daughter, Jessica.

With no stove in the motel room, most of the meals are light, Adofo said. He uses a small electric grill to make tortillas and a small microwave in the room to heat up milk and water, and cook frozen meals.

“Thankfully, every room here has a refrigerator,” Adolfo said.

Diana continues to pursue a GED and is working part-time at the nearby El Taco Veloz restaurant.

Adolfo and Olga are thankful for the help the family has received from churches, charitable groups and strangers who have helped them with food, formula and diapers for the baby, and money to pay the weekly motel rate, which recently increased to $215.

The family sees a light at the end of the tunnel and hope to see the worker’s compensation check before Christmas.

“Without money, you’re not worth anything here,” Adolfo said.

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