Hotels and motels provide warm shelter to families in need
An organization that is helping homeless families find shelter during the cold winter is getting some extra help this year.
Housing Assessment and Resource Agency is run through the Northwest Michigan Community Action Agency. Together they've been helping homeless families in Grand Traverse, Benzie, Kalkaska, Antrim, and Leelanau Counties for the last two years by putting them up in some area motels/hotels when they have no place else to turn.
They get around 25-30 phone calls each day from homeless people looking for help in the five counties.
As long as the other shelters in the area are full, and the families don't have another place to go, they're put up in one of the participating motels for a maximum of five days. The hotels/motels decide the price of a room, that is usually at a discounted rate, and it's covered through the Department of Human Services.
During the families' stay, Billie Hedglen and her team make contact with them and help them to continue moving forward.
"During this time they're working with me typically on a daily basis to try and find them permanent housing," said Hedglen."
Permanent and affordable housing that Hedglen says can be very difficult to find.
"We're a tourist town," said Hedglen. "It's expensive to live here. And so for us to find something that is affordable and a lot of our clients don't have transportation so of course you know we're looking out trying to to keep them close so that they can go to work. And sometimes it's hard to find something that's close for them."
Officials says that the other area shelters like Goodwill Inn, Pete's Place, and the Safe Harbor Program can fill up fast and can have limitations for families with children of certain ages.
The program started with the Crestwood Motel, and has since expanded to four hotels/motels, all of which are in Grand Traverse County. Program leaders are hoping that others in the surrounding counties will also get involved.
"One thing that we would love to see is some of the outside hotels from the program," said Hedglen.
The places that do participate say it's completely worth it for both the needy families, and themselves.
"There's a sense of understanding and non judgment that it could be any of us at any point and time and they offer us an opportunity to do something good so we get a lot out of it also," said Kathy Kelly, general manager for The Sleep Inn.