Super 8 Hotel Kicks Out A Homeless Couple With A Room Paid In Advance Because They Had No ID
Each winter in this country–one of the richest on earth–700 homeless people die of hypothermia. During last year’s unbelievably harsh winter, that number hit nearly 2000. Unlike almost any other thing people die of regularly, this is 100 percent fixable and solvable. The only reason this “has” to happen is because not enough people really give a shit. Let’s just say it now and get it out of the way.
But sometimes people do, and sadly, even that sometimes does not work out.
On Valentine’s Day, at a Wendy’s in Columbus, Ohio, George Gruss and his wife met Stephanie and Louis, a homeless couple with no place to stay for the night. The temperature was going to be below zero. It was about that in Chicago, and I–personally–winced at taking the garbage out.
They took some time and spoke to the couple. They were in their early twenties. Stephanie was from South Carolina, Louis was from Alabama. They had parted ways with a friend and were on their way to a drug rehab center in Michigan.
Instead of doing what most people might do, brushing it off and figuring the couple would figure something out, or saying “Welp, not really our problem,” Gruss and his wife took the couple over to a Super 8 Hotel and paid for a three night stay to help them avoid the bitter cold.
They had hoped that by giving the young couple a place to stay for three nights, that they could come back in the next days in order to maybe pick them up and take them to Dayton or Cleveland, where they knew a retired Pastor and some church groups that could get them some help.
An hour or so after Gruss paid for the room and dropped the couple off–having been very clear about the fact that they were buying a room for this couple and not for themselves–he got a call from hotel security saying that the couple had been evicted for not having any identification. He was also told that his credit card would not be refunded for the three days he paid for.
The hotel’s security informed him that they needed ID in case the couple did any damage to the room, as well as to prove that they were over 18. However, Gruss had put the room on his credit card, and told him that he would take financial responsibility were that to occur. No luck. He tried to call the corporate offices, hoping that he could get them to maybe call the hotel back in time and get this figured out so that Stephanie and Louis could stay there. He was told to call back on Monday, which was, of course, not much help at that time.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been asked for ID to stay in a room that someone else was paying for. Not once. Including, and obviously most often, when I was under 18 and my dad would get rooms for my sister and I on family vacations.
Frustrated by the incident, and at the urging of his son Dave, Gruss posted about the incident on Facebook.
Coincidentally, Dave Gruss is a graphic designer, and one of his clients is Jessica Sutherland, who created the non-profit “Homeless to Higher Ed” (full disclosure: Jessica is an internet acquaintance of mine, which is how I found out about this in the first place). Screencaps of George’s Facebook post quickly took off on Twitter, and a petition was soon launched to get Super 8 to change their policy. It currently has nearly 12,000 signatures. Which just goes to show you, don’t be an asshole, because you never really know who you’re messing with.
George Gruss has since been in contact with the corporate offices of Wyndham Hotel Group, which owns Super 8, as well as Days Inn, Ramada, Travelodge, and Howard Johnson hotels. The people he’s spoken to have been supportive of what he was trying to do, and have told him that each Super 8 is independently owned, which is why there is not an official policy on these things. They are trying to work things out with him, but he is mostly frustrated that he has lost his chance to help Stephanie and Louis.
Identification is a huge, huge problem for our homeless citizens–many of whom just don’t have any. Because keeping a wallet on you is not exactly easy when you’re sleeping outside. If you don’t have ID (and a social security card), you can’t get a job, you can’t get housing, and in some places, you can’t even vote. Now, it seems you can’t even stay for a night in a cheap motel so you don’t freeze to death in sub-zero weather. How does anyone expect anyone to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” if they have literally no way of doing that?
The hardest thing about these stories is that homelessness is such a fixable problem. It could be fixed in less than a year, if we really wanted to. It’s a problem that shouldn’t have to be fixed by kind strangers like George Gruss. It’s a problem that shouldn’t have to be fixed by church groups or the Catholic Workers.
No one should freeze to death, here, in America. No one should be without a place to stay in sub-zero weather. I’m going to say that this is a pretty low bar. I’m going to say it’s the absolute least we can do.
If 700 people–nevermind 2000–were killed in a terrorist attack, we’d go to war immediately. We’d spend billions of dollars without batting an eyelash. We’d fight that war, ostensibly to protect our citizens. We’d spend tons of money on airplanes we’re never going to use, and then tons of money to rebuild nations we’ve torn apart and are–in all likelihood–just going to bomb again.
And yet, we can’t spend the relatively incredibly small amount of money it would cost to house the homeless population. We can’t spend that money to protect people from the cold. We are willing to let 700 people freeze to death a year because, let’s face it, we really don’t care enough. Because it’s easier to pretend those people don’t matter. It’s easier to forget that they exist.
We already have the buildings. There are abandoned buildings everywhere that could be fixed up. The government could create jobs for people fixing them up and taking care of those living there. Lord knows, we can always use more of those.
I hope that Super 8, or at least this Super 8 changes their policy. I hope this never happens again to anyone. I hope someday we have protections in place that will prevent anyone from ever having to worry about sleeping outside in this kind of weather.
Stephanie has light brown hair average height and is from South Carolina. Louis has dark hair and is from Alabama. They are both white, and were traveling to Michigan. If anyone has any idea of their whereabouts and if they are OK or not, please let us know.
[h/t Jessica Sutherland]