Since the tourism industry has been all but completely sidelined during the COVID-19 pandemic, hotels around the world have been forced to close their doors. Some, however, have chosen to remain open in an act of true altruism and offered up their rooms to homeless people in their area for free.
One of these hotels is the Fownes Hotel in Worcester, England. Here, homeless locals have been offered a room to themselves and food to eat, and now these guests are returning the favor.
Hotel for the Homeless: A Show of Gratitude
Eddie Boult is a former bricklayer and one of the guests at the Fownes Hotel. In an effort to show his gratitude to the hotel staff for their kindness, he put his skills to good use and has built a wall and a patio at the hotel.
Other guests have begun doing odd jobs around the hotel as well, including gardening and room-cleaning. This has been a huge help to the staff at the hotel, since they’ve been operating with a skeleton crew of only eleven people, meanwhile over forty five guests have been staying at the hotel since restrictions began in March.
Peter Swinbourne, who has been homeless for 25 years, is immensely grateful for the kindness he’s received, saying that the hotel staff “saved” him.
“I have never slept in a double bed before,” he said. “I’m happy here—this is a five-star hotel putting up homeless people.” 
Restaurant employees have been working seven days per week to provide three-course meals for the guest, which are delivered to their rooms in disposable containers to help reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmissions.
“The food is also excellent,” said 55-year-old Terrence Marriot, who’s been staying at the hotel for six weeks. “I feel a lot healthier than when I came in.” 
Assistant manager Julie Merrick explained that the hotel decided to remain open simply because they wanted to help.
“Our new guests have been lovely and grateful for the support they had been given and treat their rooms with respect,” she said .
As the only hotel in the area doing this, the Fownes staff has been working overtime, but Merrick says that they have been very brave and gone above their job role, and it’s brought them closer as a team .
Housing FIrst Strategy
The action taken by the Fownes Hotel is an example of “Housing First” strategy to combat homelessness. It is a recovery-oriented approach that focuses on finding independent and permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness, and then providing them with additional supports and services as needed .
This is contrary to the traditional strategy employed to end homelessness, in which affected individuals are expected to find jobs and address their addictions and health problems before they can be provided with housing.
The underlying principle of Housing First is that people are much more capable at moving forward with their lives and addressing whatever issues put them on the streets in the first place if they have a roof over their heads. Housing comes first, followed by supports including physical and mental health assistance, education, employment, substance abuse, employment, and community connections .
In a press release published by the Canadian Homelessness Research Network, authors made the case for the housing first strategy:
“Housing is not contingent upon readiness, or on ‘compliance’ (for instance, sobriety). Rather, it is a rights-based intervention rooted in the philosophy that all people deserve housing, and that adequate housing is a precondition for recovery.” 
The Housing First approach is comprised of five core principles:
- Immediate access to housing with no housing readiness requirements. This is the opposite of traditional “treatment first” strategies, which require individuals affected by homelessness to be place in emergency services and are expected to address certain issues like addictions or mental health before they are deemed “ready” for housing. Housing is not conditional on sobriety or abstinence, and is completely voluntary .
- Clients’ choice for housing and supports. This is a rights-based, client-centered approach in which clients are given the right to choose the location and type of housing they will receive, as well as which services they will use and when they will use them .
- Individualized and client-driven supports. Individuals have access to a range of treatment and support services that are voluntary, individualized, culturally appropriate, and portable, that address the unique needs of the individual. This could include housing stability, health and mental health needs, and life skills.
This could also include income supports and rent supplements, with the idea that no individual should use more than thirty percent of their income on rent .
- Recovery orientation. Housing First does not simply focus on meeting basic needs, but also on supporting recovery. It focuses on individual well-being, and gives them access to a range of supports that allow them to develop and maintain social, recreational, educational, occupational and vocational activities.
This also means access to a harm reduction environment for those who are struggling with addictions, which aims to reduce the risks associated with substance abuse and addictive behaviors, not only for the individual but for the community at large .
- Community integration. If people receive housing but then become or remain socially isolated, it could compromise the stability of their housing. One of the goals of the Housing First strategy is to help people affected by homelessness to reintegrate into their communities through socially supportive engagement and opportunities to participate in meaningful activities .
Help for the Future
The Fownes Hotel has partnered with a homeless charity to host workshops on how to manage the guests’ addictions, seek benefits, and find future accommodation. The hotel bar has been cleared of all alcohol as a precaution, and there is no alcohol permitted on the hotel grounds .This is not the only hotel that has taken on this type of initiative. Another hotel in British Columbia, Canada, has also opened its doors to the homeless people in their community.
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