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TPG honors Kristin Kitchen, who helped shelter Miami’s homeless during the pandemic

Dec. 11, 2020
5 min read
The lobby of the Dunns-Josephine Hotel in Miami's Overtown neighborhood
TPG honors Kristin Kitchen, who helped shelter Miami’s homeless during the pandemic
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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.

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“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.

One of the rooms at Dunns-Josephine Hotel in Miami (Photo courtesy of Sojourn Heritage Accommodations)

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.

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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.

Related: How to use your credit card points to donate to charities

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 image by The gorgeous lobby of the Dunns-Josephine Hotel in Miami. (Photo courtesy of Sojourn Accommodations)

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

5XGet 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com
1.5XEarn 1.5X points on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year
1X1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Intro Offer
    The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

    Earn 150,000 points
    120,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $695
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Good, Excellent

Why We Chose It

It's hard to find a card that competes with the mile-long list of benefits that come with the Amex Business Platinum. While it's certainly not the card for the average consumer, a business owner with tons of expenses -- especially related to travel -- will find this card incredibly valuable. This card is similar to the consumer version that Amex offers, but with more business-oriented perks around statement credits and earning rates that are a better fit for business owners.

Pros

  • An up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four to five years
  • Up to $400 annual credit for eligible U.S. Dell purchases (enrollment required)
  • Gold status at Marriott and Hilton hotels (enrollment required)
  • Access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program and Hotel Collection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • International Airline Program and Cruise Privileges Program

Cons

  • Steep annual fee
  • Difficulty meeting $15,000 welcome offer for smaller businesses
  • Limited high-bonus categories outside of travel
  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Earn 1.5X points (that’s an extra half point per dollar) on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
  • Unlock over $1,000 in annual statement credits on a curation of business purchases, including select purchases made with Dell Technologies, Indeed, Adobe, and U.S. wireless service providers.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for checked baggage fees, lounge day passes, and more at one selected airline.
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $189 back per year on your CLEAR® membership. CLEAR® is available at more than 50 U.S. airports and stadiums.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more lounge location options than any other credit card on the market as of 9/2021.
  • $695 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.