When the world began quarantining because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, many people experiencing homelessness found themselves with nowhere to go.
Fownes Hotel, a 60-room upscale hotel in Worcester, England, normally charges about $197 a night. When they closed their doors to their usual customers, staff members made the wonderful decision to be part of the solution for the “rough sleepers” in their city.
The hotel quickly welcomed 45 people with nowhere else to go and has been giving them free room and board ever since. They will continue to do so until they open to the public again. In the meantime, they had to furlough 15 staff members, which left them with a skeletal crew of 11. Assistant manager Julie Merrick said she’s been doubling her usual work hours as a result.
“We’re the only hotel in Worcester doing this. Everybody else closed their doors,” she said. “My staff are very brave. They have gone above their job role, absolutely. It has brought us all closer together as a team.”
Not only are they providing housing, but they’re also partnering with a local homeless charity to educate their staff on how to better assist their guests. They’ve held workshops about finding resources and managing addictions, among other important topics.
For guests like Peter Swinbourne, staying at the Fownes “saved” him from an uncertain fate. “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.”
Other guests said they’re eating better than ever before, and it’s all thanks to the restaurant staffers who are preparing their meals.
“I have been well looked after. It has been excellent. The food is also excellent,” Terence Marriott added. “I feel a lot healthier than when I came in.”
So many guests felt the same way that they started looking for ways to give back. They have weeded the gardens around the hotel, cleaned rooms, and assisted the kitchen staff.
Eddie Boult, a former bricklayer staying at the Fownes, got right to work building them a new wall and patio. “I did it because I was bored but also as a thank-you to the staff,” he said. “They’ve really looked after me.”
Everyone needs a helping hand during difficult times! We’re so grateful to the employees at the Fownes for stepping up in this beautiful way — and to each of the guests who selflessly decided to give back.
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