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  • Melinda Murphy

Housed homeless repay favor

Hotel staffers have been hailed as unsung heroes after they refused to close during the novel coronavirus lockdowns so they could offer up their rooms to homeless people for free.

In a heartwarming show of gratitude, the guests have since begun doing odd-jobs around the hotel, including gardening, cleaning the rooms, and building new brick walls and patios.

More than 45 rough sleepers have been staying at upmarket Fownes Hotel in Worcester, England since the COVID-19 restrictions were put in place in March.

The 60-room hotel, which normally charges guests up to £155 per night, opted to stay open to provide shelter to people living on the streets.

Homeless guest Eddie Boult, a former bricklayer who built a wall and patio at the hotel, said: “I did it because I was bored but also as a thank you to the staff. They’ve really looked after me.”

Fellow guest 48-year-old Peter Swinbourne, who has been homeless for 25 years, said that the staff’s kindness “saved” him.

Eddie Boult built a wall for the Fownes Hotel, Worcester. SWNS.

“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.”

55-year-old Terence Marriott has been staying at the hotel for six weeks. He said: “I have been well looked after. It has been excellent.

“The food is also excellent,” he added. “I feel a lot healthier than when I came in.”

The hotel has also joined forces with a homeless charity which has been hosting workshops on how to manage the guests’ addictions, seek benefits, and secure future accommodation.

The three hotel bars have all been cleared of alcohol as a precaution and no alcohol is permitted on the hotel grounds.

“Our new guests have been lovely and grateful for the support they had been given and treat their rooms with respect,” said assistant manager Julie Merrick. “We stayed open simply because we wanted to help.”

Management of the hotel has been maintained by a skeleton crew of 11 people while

15 staff have been furloughed.

Ms. Merrick, a mother-of-two, estimates she has worked double her usual hours during the course of the pandemic.

“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.

It is not the first time the hotel has helped people—it also homed 30 people who were forced to leave their homes during the regional flooding back in February.

Staff has been offered PPE including gloves, face masks and aprons, but management says that no cases of COVID-19 have been reported thus far.

However, restaurant employees have been working seven days a week in order to provide three course meals to their guests, delivered directly to their hotel rooms in disposable containers to reduce the risk of virus transmission.

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