TPG honors Kristin Kitchen, who helped shelter Miami’s homeless during the pandemic
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
2020 has been a tough year, and we can all use an uplifting story as we head toward (hopefully) brighter skies in 2021. And that’s exactly what we have for you as we close out Hotels & Destinations Week at the 2020 TPG Awards.
Today, TPG is proud to present the Inspiration Award to Kristin Kitchen of Sojourn Heritage Accommodations. Kitchen was raised in Cincinnati and got into the hospitality industry after visiting a house that was part of the original Underground Railroad. That house later became her bed and breakfast, Six Acres. After working on the house for three years, it opened in 2004 — and the mission was to blend history and hospitality together.
“We’d have these amazing mornings at the bed and breakfast,” Kitchen said. “We would film a lot of people’s conversations. And [we realized that] the void in our world was the common conversations that we all really do want the same things. Life is not that polarizing, [and] everybody kind of wants the same thing.”
Kitchen also runs a hotel in Miami’s Overtown neighborhood, Dunns-Josephine Hotel, which opened last December. The hotel pays homage to Miami and Harlem Renaissance periods of “glitz and old-world glamour.” If you’re a jazz music buff, you’re likely familiar with the Overtown neighborhood. During segregation, Black performers like Nat King Cole, who performed at white Miami hotels like the Fontainebleau, were not allowed to stay there.
Instead, they stayed in Overtown, a neighborhood home to African-Americans and West Indians, which became known as the “Harlem of the South.”
2020 was projected to be a big year for Kitchen and her business. There was a jazz festival scheduled to take place in mid-March, and the hotel was completely booked. “Life is great,” she said.
Imagine realizing your dream to open a boutique hotel telling the African-American experience and story. You’ve toiled over it, you’ve prayed over it and now you’re reaping the fruits of your labor. But Kitchen said she knew something was wrong when the festival was abruptly called off. A slew of cancellations at Dunns-Josephine followed.
Shortly after, the city of Miami shut down due to COVID-19, and Kitchen was devastated.
“I went to sleep with a pit in the bottom of my stomach, because I had hemorrhaged financially to get the hotel open,” she said. “[I thought], this just really could not be happening.”
But after some self-reflection, Kitchen knew her hotel could ease the burden on Miami’s most vulnerable residents.
“I went to sleep and woke up and said, ‘who needs my help?’ Somebody needs shelter, so I reached out to the Homeless Trust.” The agency sent three residents to Dunns-Josephine that same day.
Even before the pandemic, Dunns-Josephine gained a reputation for being a beacon in the night for Miami’s homeless population. The hotel would give odd jobs to people out of work and would let people take advantage of free showers at the property.
Miami’s homeless were particularly impacted by the pandemic. According to a report by the Miami Herald, about 1,000 people were living on the streets of Miami-Dade County, which doesn’t include people living in homeless shelters. Florida has also been hit hard by the pandemic, registering over 1 million positive cases of the novel coronavirus and nearly 20,000 deaths statewide. Close to 4,000 Miami-Dade County residents have died of the virus, according to data as of Dec. 9, 2020.
Kitchen estimates more than 500 people have come through its doors since the onset of the pandemic, many staying between 14 and 21 days. Some are COVID-positive and are in isolation, while others are negative but need a place to stay. Kitchen and her staff treat everyone the same.
“We just try to practice the [pandemic] precautions and still treat people with dignity and respect. [We get] that this is not an easy thing, to be stuck in a box for 21 days.”
Her staff is known to grab Snickers bars for residents craving a sweet treat or running errands for those unable to leave. Isolation is one unseen factor of the pandemic, so the staff gives guests a cellphone to keep in touch with friends and loved ones.
Some questioned whether Kitchen was sure she wanted homeless residents to occupy her “swanky” hotel. “We built it for our community,” she said. “We built it on purpose to be this South Beach hotel in the middle of the ‘hood so that people [would be] just blown away.”
“Can you really be in the community and not help serve the community?” she said.
For her willingness to step up in a time of crisis, we’re honored to bestow the Inspiration Award to Kristen Kitchen.
Featured photo courtesy of Sojourn Heritage Accommodations
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
- Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees