BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — A Bloomington program meant to help homeless Hoosiers has a new mission for the holidays: Make sure everyone has shelter on Christmas Eve.
For the past nine months during the COVID-19 crisis, Indiana charity Hotels for Homeless has created safe havens for families.
They're helping people stay protected and off the streets, while also transitioning them into stable housing on their own.
They even had the comic book creator of "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" donate to the cause.
Now their new mission for the holidays is to give every homeless person in need of shelter on Christmas Eve a hotel room.
"My hope is that my children and I can drive around and look at the lights on Christmas Eve and there will not be a single person in our city sleeping outside," explained Hotels for Homeless Executive Director Katie Norris. "These people deserve a little bit of respite, and what better night to do it on than Christmas Eve 2020? I mean, let's go out with a bang. Let's end this year on a good note."
She's partnered with two Bloomington hotels to make it happen: the Best Value Inn and the Quality Inn.
Donations will allow up to 80 people to have a peaceful night, safe and socially distanced. Norris said the response was overwhelming.
"Bloomington just said 'Absolutely, let's do it,'" Norris said. "They were like 'Oh yeah, How many rooms do you need?'"
Each person will also get a homemade dinner and a plate of Christmas cookies at the hotel, along with a hygiene kit, courtesy of Anthem.
"And you'll be welcomed with kindness and respect and you'll be fed and you know, enjoy your night," Norris said. "Merry Christmas!"
And what better blessing than one inspired by the very first Christmas.
"A kind stranger allowed a couple people who were getting ready to have a baby come and sleep indoors on Christmas Eve, and it changed the world! So let's do it too," Norris said.
She also hopes other hotels in other communities see what they're doing in Bloomington and follow suit.
Hotels for Homeless recently received an Indiana Trailblazer award for its success during the pandemic.
With that award, Indiana University will be studying the program as a low barrier housing initiative.
If you'd like to help with the Christmas Eve event, you can make a cash donation at one of the hotels by specifying "Christmas Eve program" or contact Hotels for Homeless here.