Candlewood Suites has demonstrated incredible compassion and dedication to our Veterans in need during the COVID-19 crisis.
The worst of times tend to bring out the best in people. And Endeavors’ clients have certainly been on the benefitting side of our communities’ overwhelming generosity and support. Across Texas, Candlewood Suites has opened its doors to our Veterans, providing temporary housing and vital amenities to help keep them safe during the pandemic and help them escape homelessness.
Veterans At Risk
Social distancing, stay-at-home orders, and crowded shelters have aggravated the homelessness crisis in our country, and the unemployment rates threaten to increase the number of Veterans and military families forced onto the streets. (Click here to see if you qualify for emergency rental assistance from Endeavors.) Additionally, the prolonged isolation and uncertainty means that Veteran Suicide Prevention is the #1 priority for the Department of Veteran Affairs right now.
The danger of the pandemic to Veterans on the streets is scary. Veterans facing or experiencing homelessness have poorer health outcomes than those living in permanent housing. Lack of shelter, personal protective equipment like masks, and basic hygiene and health resources could turn a cough into a life or death situation in the blink of an eye.
Meanwhile, the pandemic has also brought hard times to the hospitality industry. Candlewood Suites Galleria in Dallas, for example, saw their business travel come to a screeching halt. Rooms were empty, revenue was down, and the reality of laying off or furloughing employees loomed overhead.
But don’t worry, this story has a happy ending.
Teaming Up To Serve Others
This April, Endeavors’ SSVF (Supportive Services for Veteran Families) Case Manager Shaun Arnold approached Derek Leupen, the Director of Sales for Candlewood Galleria in Dallas, and together they came up with a plan that would get Veterans the shelter they need and save the hotel staff from unemployment.
“We first worked with Endeavors two years ago after Hurricane Harvey,” Leupen remembers. “It was a good experience for them and the hotel, and it’s not hard to find a good reason to help our Veterans.”
By providing rooms for an average of 26 Veterans a week, Candlewood received enough funding to keep their doors open and their employees paid. It was a win-win…a partnership in serving the Veterans who have served us so selflessly.
“We saw an opportunity to keep our employees employed and provide our Veterans with a nice place to stay and catch their breath,” Leupen says. “A safe place to get their feet under them and look to the future without worrying about where they’ll sleep that night.”
The Dallas hotel became a sort of flagship for this partnership, and Laupen connected our case managers with other Candlewood locations across the state to serve Veterans in their own communities.
Funding for this temporary housing program comes from the CARES Act. In normal circumstances, cost and VA program restrictions prevent our case managers from placing Veterans in hotel housing if another method is available. But with the massive rise in COVID-19 cases in metro Texas areas, the VA has extended its funding for Veteran Supportive Services to help get in front of the homelessness crisis. With countless shelters experiencing outbreaks or shutting down, this new flexibility and funding are saving lives.
At Endeavors, we are grateful that our case managers have been able to quickly help our Veterans get off the streets and minimize their COVID-19 risk. After all, “our ultimate goal is to get [Veterans] permanent housing,” says Arnold. This is the first step, and a crucial one.
Partners In New Beginnings
Candlewood Suites has been incredible and instrumental in this process. “They’ve turned into social workers without knowing that’s what they were doing,” comments Arnold. “We had clients placed there who had difficulty with basic living activities like washing clothes, preparing meals. The staff went above and beyond to work with our clients in-depth to teach them those things.”
Candlewood Galleria Director of Sales Derek Leupen remembers one of those moments. “Last week one of our new Veteran guests came down to the front desk because he’d heard he could do laundry. I showed him the machines and got him some detergent… you’ve never seen anybody so appreciative to be able to clean his clothes.”
Despite having exactly zero training in social work or working with guests experiencing homelessness or mental illness, the staff at Candlewood has exhibited exceptional patience, compassion, and customer service. “Above-and-beyond” doesn’t even begin to cover it.
“It’s a total team effort,” Leupen says, adding that everyone on the hotel’s 15-person team, led by Lead Front Desk Agent Carmen and Operations Manager Lavonya, has played an integral role in creating a safe and supportive haven for their Veteran guests. A true embodiment of our #PeopleHelpingPeople mission.
Together, our SSVF Case Managers and the teams at Candlewood are making an imperative difference in the lives of our Veterans, serving those who have served us. And we could not be more grateful. Candlewood Suites, we thank you.
If you or a loved one is experiencing homelessness as a Veteran in Texas, please contact your local office to speak with our Veteran Supportive Services team. Due to the pandemic, our teams are working remotely but we are still 100% available and ready to assist and get our Veterans in need on the road to safe and permanent housing.
Endeavors is a longstanding national non-profit that provides an array of programs and services in support of children, families, Veterans, and those struggling with mental illness and other disabilities. Endeavors serves vulnerable people in crisis through innovative personalized services. For more information, please visit www.endeavors.org.