Story by Emily Robertson
While many people may take for granted access to stable housing or nutritious food, HOTEL INC works in Bowling Green to make sure that the most vulnerable Warren County citizens are able to have access to these basic needs. Established as a nonprofit in 1981, HOTEL INC is an acronym that stands for Helping Others Through Extending Love In the Name of Christ. The organization is funded primarily through individual donations, as well as grants, and donations from corporations, congregations and civic organizations.
HOTEL INC Director, Rhondell Miller, says that in the last five years, HOTEL INC has grown immensely and the volunteer base tripled. In 2016, the organization had 173 people volunteer more than 11,000 hours to help serve the community. She says the organization’s growth has allowed the hiring of employees and they now have seven staff members and one intern to help with the day-to-day work.
Who benefits most from HOTEL INC’s services?
Warren County citizens who are food insecure, facing eminent eviction, experiencing homelessness or may have another need that we can meet through our programs. If we do not provide the service a person needs we try to connect them to the proper community organization that can.
What kind of person is a great volunteer for HOTEL INC?
A great volunteer for HOTEL INC is someone who can love their neighbor where they are. Also, it is great when someone has a desire to help build relationships through development and not just a handout.
What are the programs and services you offer to the area?
Care Giving Financial Assistance is allocated for rental (monthly and deposits), utility deposits, STRAC, transportation, medical and documentation assistance. Clients must have proof of income and participate in budgeting and housing education. Reciprocal hours are also required.
Manna Mart is HOTEL INC’s food pantry and is committed to providing nutritionally balanced meals with varied menus. The pantry allows a shopping experience for the client and provides enough food for a week or more of meals. Manna Mart is supported by donations and Meijer’s Simply Give campaign. Local foods are provided through the Food for All Community Garden, a raised bed garden space onsite that is used in the pantry and includes herbs, salad mixes and blueberries, Need More Acres, Think Little CSA, Rian’s Fatted Calf, and other local farmers and gardeners.
Drop-In Center offers appointments for housing navigation, laundry, shower, computer access, and chaplain services for people experiencing homelessness.
Homeless Outreach provides hot meals, basic needs, access to health care with the Street Medicine teams, devotional, and relational support. Volunteer groups bring a meal for 20 to 45 individuals to the outreach location. Core volunteers and navigators connect clients with community resources and other in house programs that will work toward permanent housing.
Street Medicine is a program that provides health care to people who are street homeless or precariously housed. Teams of volunteer nurses, navigators, mental health professionals and doctors visit clients in encampments throughout the city and county three times a week. Basic screens such as blood pressure and glucose monitoring are provided, as well as wound care, mental health screening and telemedicine if needed. The teams assist clients in acquiring insurance, healthcare through a primary care physician, assistance with urgent health needs and preventive health screenings. Navigators strive to build relationships with people to forge a path from homelessness to housing and good health.
Education Classes provide clients with the life skills needed to move forward and build community. A five-week Breaking Broke series takes place at 3:45 on Wednesdays. Intermittent life classes include cooking, meal planning and parenting. Housing education takes place two times per month.
Piecemakers are a dedicated group of quilt makers who donate their time on the second and fourth Thursdays from 9 am to 1 pm. Quilts produced by Piecemakers are given to newly-housed clients, clients with high utility costs, or clients who have suffered loss due to fires or flooding.
Chaplain Services are available throughout the week.
What are HOTEL INC’s annual events?
The Realtor’s Association of Southern KY holds the Hope for Homeless food drive each spring and St. James United Methodist Church host Empty Bowls each winter. Both of these events help to support our Manna Mart program.
This year we, as an organization, are hosting two events. On November 16th will be our Chili & Cornbread Luncheon from 11 am to 1 pm at Bowling Green First Christian Church. Lunch will be available through dine-in, takeout or delivery and tickets are $10 each.
On December 7, at Ironwood Farm, we will host our “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” dinner & auction. Tickets go on sale November 1 and are $50 per person.
Tell us a bit about your role with HOTEL INC. How did you first become involved with the organization?
When my husband and I decided to move back to Kentucky, I began to search for nonprofits that I would like to potentially work for around Bowling Green or Nashville. At the time I was working at the largest soup kitchen in West Virginia as the Outreach Director and wanted to continue working for a non-profit. I found HOTEL INC through an online search and called the previous director to learn more about the organization and see how I could volunteer while living out of state. Eventually I went to work as the part time director of Habitat for Humanity of Simpson County and became involved in the area Homeless and Housing Coalition. Being a part of the coalition allowed me to learn more about Bowling Green and HOTEL INC. When the director of HOTEL INC found out she and her husband were relocating out of state she called me and suggested I apply for her job. I did and as they say, the rest is history. Five and a half years later I am still blessed to lead and work with such a wonderful group of people in our community.
What do you love about Bowling Green? Why is Bowling Green a great place for non-profits?
As a non-native to Bowling Green, I am thankful to live in a community where it doesn’t matter where you come from - that all of us who live or work here are a part of the community. I enjoy the close proximity to Nashville and Louisville but I enjoy the small town feel in a fast-growing area.
The non-profits in Bowling Green are diligent in working well together and I think the general public would be surprised as to how many of us intertwine in some way to serve our community when to the naked eye it may look like we would never be on the same page. One non-profit, one leader, one team, cannot serve all of the needs and areas of our community but I truly believe we can all bring something to the table and together help to build a stronger community for all people.
Are there any new things happening at HOTEL INC in this next year?
Yes, we are going to have a Medical Respite/Transitional House that will be opening in November 2017. We have also written a few grants and have plans for acquiring up to eight properties over the next five years that we will use for transitional and workforce housing. In addition to the properties HOTEL INC would like to acquire we will continue to work with property owners, developers and landlords to develop Master Lease agreements as well that we would also use for workforce housing.