LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A few unflattering reviews are to be expected with any hotel, particularly one whose rates start at $49 per night. But while complaints about shabby rooms and thin towels are common in the industry, ones like these, from TripAdvisor.com are not:
“It is a clean hotel but there are a lot of homeless people there.”
“Run far far away!!!!! This is a homeless shelter, not a hotel!”
“DO NOT STAY HERE UNLESS YOU ARE HOMELESS… All of the workers are former addicts/homeless people.”
Hotel Louisville, 12 stories of brick adorned with a large white cross, is indeed a hotel and event space open to the public. At the same time, it is a transitional-housing facility, substance-abuse recovery center and job-training site owned and operated by Wayside Christian Mission, a nonprofit that shelters and feeds the city’s homeless population.
Wayside bought the building at a foreclosure auction in 2009, never intending to rent rooms to the general public. It was simply a place to house the homeless. But as expenses mounted and travelers came through the lobby, remembering what used to be a Holiday Inn and seeking a place to stay, Wayside began to make use of its empty rooms.
Four years later, Hotel Louisville is in many ways an improbable success, serving addicts and the homeless while turning a profit from hotel guests and banquets, even during the recession. Perhaps the nation’s only such hybrid, it defies the usual categories — homeless shelter and charity; hotel and for-profit enterprise — and reflects a growing embrace of commerce by social-services groups normally funded by government and foundation grants.Yet Wayside’s pivot from a traditional model of charity toward the seductions of business tells its own complicated tale, showing just how hard it is to do good.
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An anonymous patron is leaving a trail of generous gratuities on bar and restaurant tabs across the country, signing each credit-card receipt with the same name as the Instagram account he uses to document his largess: @TipsForJesus.
Micah Olson learned about the man Tuesday night only after he left the Phoenix restaurant he co-owns. The mysterious man arrived with a woman and asked Olson, who was working behind the bar, whether he had ever heard of Tips for Jesus. Olson hadn’t.
“Oh, you’ll hear about it later tonight,” the man laughed — and then proceeded to order several $70 drinks for himself and his friend.
When the man closed his tab, he bought a round of drinks for Olson and his fellow bartender and left a $2,500 tip on his $530 bill.
For Brian Morin, 11, an extraordinary gateway to “adventure” lurks within an unusual place: the corner of a room in a central Fresno 7-Eleven convenience store.
Brian usually stops by five days a week to check out books from a children’s library inside, created by store owners Sushil Prakash and Josephine Kiran as an incentive to get children in the neighborhood excited about reading.
The catch to lure kids? A free Slurpee or hot chocolate for every book read and summarized in a short book report.