Matthew Senge and Deb Bennett just wanted to do something nice for their homeless neighbors on Christmas.
In early December, the couple, who together founded Road to Redemption Ministries in Wilmington, Delaware, decided to give six people currently living underneath the Amtrak bridge — two men, a woman, and her three children — the gift of a night in the city’s finest hotel.
“I used to be one of them,” Bennett told Delaware Online, noting that she had lived under a bridge after losing her house to a fire in 2012.
Senge spoke with the reservation desk at Hotel du Pont, one of just two five-star hotels in Wilmington, to make sure it would be okay to book the room for his guests. “They were blown away; they thought it was a wonderful idea,” Senge told WDEL, which first reported the story. After talking to hotel management and getting approval, Senge put down $639 to book the two-bedroom suite for Christmas night.
However, on Christmas morning, as the guests planned their getaway, Senge received a call from the hotel informing him that the reservation had been cancelled.
According to Senge, the staffer told him, “What if one of those people rapes or robs one of my guests?”
ThinkProgress reached out to du Pont for comment, but the call wasn’t returned.
However, du Pont spokesman Brendan McEvoy told WDEL, “I think all of us were purely focused on the safety of our hotel guests, and that was why the decision was made.” He elaborated that the issue was that the hotel “wouldn’t allow a guest to check in if they did not have photo ID.”
Even though homeless people in general are less likely to have photo identification than the population at large, it is certainly not the case that no homeless individuals have ID. Indeed, Friendship House, a Delaware-based homeless non-profit, mentions help getting identification as one of the services it offers. And according to Senge, his guests actually did possess photo IDs.
After WDEL published the story, Brad Wenger, general manager of the nearby Christiana Hilton, chimed in on the comments section that his hotel would offer “10 rooms to homeless individuals tonight at no charge.” He told ThinkProgress that he’s “been working with local shelters to identify individuals in need.” Indeed, with frigid temperatures in the northeast causing many local shelters to be over capacity, he didn’t expect to have trouble finding people who could benefit from the offer.