The Dunns Josephine Hotel in Miami’s Overtown finally opened last December, and it looked like the Black-owned establishment was going to be a big hit. Then COVID-19 happened, and owner Kristin Kitchen worried her success was going to be short-lived.
To turn a tragedy into an opportunity to help others and meet a crucial need in the community, Kitchen reached out to the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust. This agency works with the community and local officials to eradicate homelessness. Kitchen offered her hotel as a safe haven for vulnerable individuals affected by COVID-19. The hotel was the first of five locations to sign a monthly agreement to house more than 1000 homeless people who have contacted the illness or have had exposure to the virus.
Maintaining Safety and Cleanliness
The hotel’s sales and marketing director, Metris Batts-Coley, had 20 years of experience in the public health sector. She was well-equipped to work with Kitchen to prepare the hotel for quarantine. The hotel had to remove the plush furniture and decorations to reduce contamination. The sculptures, TVs, tables, and beds for the guestrooms remain. Staff members have restricted access to guest rooms and have to follow cleanliness protocols.
The hotel requires guests to stay in their rooms unless they have an appointment. Guests receive cellphones to reach Batts-Coley with specific requests. They receive laundry service and donated meals. Most guests stay a few weeks until they can return to a shelter. Elderly guests and those with chronic conditions often stay longer.
Making a Difference
Homeless Trust chair Ron Book says that partnering hotels have helped lower COVID-19 rates among Miami’s homeless population. The Dunns Josephine Hotel has had more than 100 guests since they began their partnership. The guests have included mothers with young children, older adults, and working individuals. These guests have helped the hotel stay open, according to Batts-Coley.
Kitchen is unsure of the hotel’s future, given that the monthly agreement with the Trust continues into early fall. She expresses the desire for the hotel to continue serving Miami-Dade’s homeless population. She cites the needs of the community facing a pandemic that appears to be far from over.