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Hotel Inc offers monthly tour and conversation

Hotel+Inc+offers+monthly+tour+and+conversation
Molly Dobberstein

On the first Friday of every month, Hotel Inc hosts its First Friday Tour and Conversation, welcoming old and new friends to tour the newly renovated facility and co-op market and to learn about their work in the community.

Hotel Inc staff and volunteers aim to assist community members experiencing homelessness and food insecurity. They provide stabilization, emergency relief, education and more resources.

Executive Director Rhondell Miller described a major shift in the folks most at risk in the last two years. Senior citizens, primarily female, and households with children are more commonly experiencing housing insecurity.

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After the tornadoes, “housing costs were teetering on access of affordability,” Miller said. She explained that many landlords and property owners chose to increase their rents, with some even doubling.

The city has released a housing assessment that Miller said tells “part of the story of all the various types of needs we have.” The first assessment in 2019 showed about five hundred households living in substandard conditions. Now, there are about 1,900.

Substandard conditions, as described by Miller, could include severe overcrowding, lack of a proper kitchen or bathroom, and more.

According to Miller, Bowling Green is into the thousands of a housing shortage. 

Miller said that affordable housing is defined as not spending more than thirty percent of one’s income, anything above that increases risk.

“We still see a lot of seniors whose monthly income is under a thousand dollars,” Miller said. Illness and medical bills can take that buffer, as recently experienced with a couple she worked with.

She described this as a risk higher for women, especially aging women, whose social security benefit amounts may not be as high.

Hotel Inc promotes homelessness prevention within stability plans created for clients. They also aim to provide medical care in the community.

Although currently without a medical director, volunteering medical workers and navigators organize street medicine outreach. They may go out to specific encampments or fixed site locations such as the wellness center.

Miller said volunteers and staff address any basic health needs, which includes wound care, vaccination information, and managing conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and other illnesses. They also help individuals obtain health insurance and connect to a primary care physician.

Miller explained that Hotel Inc partners with a lot of individuals who have major health issues.

Many of those involved with Hotel Inc choose to participate in education classes.

Foundations is an eight-week cohort addressing overall stability that is taught five times throughout a year in the mornings and evenings. Up to 20 to 25 households may participate in this cohort.

Some of the topics covered include understanding food security and healthy nutrition, legal obstacles, health and wellness, financial management, transportation, employment and education.

A 15 week cohort is also offered twice a year that Miller described as a deep dive into oneself and patterns that have been brought into many situations that keep individuals “in the hamster wheel.”

In both cohorts, members are sharing knowledge with each other and see the assets within themselves.

They also provide one-off pop-up workshops as requested by various partners or the community.

Hotel Inc offers a community space, satellite library and a micro-grocery that recently replaced a traditional food pantry.

Miller described the Delafield co-op market as bringing equity to the table and building community and support. Members in the west end of Bowling Green are offered whole food nutrition and access to buy fresh food.

Members get roughly 30 percent off the retail price of the items, and until the end of the year EBT/SNAP shoppers can get up to $10 of Kentucky grown products at no cost. Non-members are also able to support the shop with a one-time fee.

Through the market, Miller said they are “collectively building a sustainable food economy,” and folks depend on each other for support.

Hotel Inc practices not just holistic partnership, but “wholistic,” which Miller said “centers on the whole person, not just one aspect.” They ask questions and do assessments, not only regarding housing but economic conditions, spirituality, health and safety.

Miller works to help the community at large understand the difference in this approach and emergency relief work, which she said there will always be a need for.

“I think for us to begin to move the needle on our poverty rate… we have to be willing to go upstream and look into what’s coming into the river,” Miller said. She described going upstream as a deeper and longer financial investment, one in which change isn’t seen as quickly.

They have shifted from a charity model to community outreach, which is asset based and involves relationship building. She noted the importance of those they serve feeling like they’re seen and heard, can organize together and can identify what external resources, if any, they need.

Miller expressed pride for “how hard folks work to overcome the situation that they’re in.” Individuals and households may partner with Hotel Inc anywhere from six months to longer.

Over sixty landlords partner with Hotel Inc, and they receive community support and sponsorships, along with grants and donations. They will be hosting a volunteer recruitment event on Nov. 14 for those wishing to get involved.

News reporter Lindsey Coates can be reached at [email protected]

 

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