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Friday, October 07, 2005

Think the party of your governor doesn't matter? Hilton Evicts Katrina Evacuees to Accommodate Higher Paying Business Customers

According to an AP report on Yahoo: "They [Hampton Inn, Brookhaven, Mississippi] told me if I didn't pick my clothes up, they were going to call the police," Barbara Perry said. Barbara's been driving 90 miles a day to work and trying to cope with staying in the hotel about two hours north of the Katrina strike zone with her three young children, her mother, who uses a wheelchair, and her father, who is blind. Perry's disabled parents were only given an extension after a Red Cross plea on their behalf.

The Inn's management was following national Hilton chain policy. Hilton's excuse is that they warned evacuees in advance, in so many words, that the Hilton Hotels were inhumane money-grubbers. Evacuees just don't spend as much per day on expensive extras as business and tourism customers and they use more water, electricity, and other hotel services that aren't separately charged.

As with many other aspects of life for the poor and needy, the level of protection for evacuees depends on the political party in charge in the locale. The Democratic governor of Louisiana issued an executive order barring hotels from evicting paying evacuees. But Mississippi's Republican governor, Haley Barbour, "has decided to let the private sector handle those issues without government intervention," said his spokesman, Pete Smith.

However, not all of corporate America's lodging chains exhibit Hilton Heartlessness. At a Comfort Inn across the street from the Brookhaven Hampton Inn, assistant manager Anna Smith isn't asking evacuees to leave. "What would you do? They're homeless. You can't turn them away. It's morally wrong. I'd rather inconvenience our people with reservations."

Holiday Inn and Choice Hotels International [Clarion, Comfort Suites, Quality and Sleep Inns], are also encouraging their franchises to give priority to evacuees and emergency workers.

Comment Sent to Hilton Customer Relations:

I just read that your chain is putting homeless Katrina evacuees out on the street instead of calling those with reservations you could not otherwise serve to assist them with other arrangements.

Shame on the Hilton company!

Your company can be assured that its heartlessness will negatively influence my lodging choices where Hilton is concerned.

This is one story I will remember and repeat for a very long time.