When most think of homelessness, they often picture individuals living on the streets or in shelters like ours. However, there is another form of homelessness that is often hidden from public view: those living in motels and hotels. At Nest, we encounter many individuals and families who find themselves in this precarious situation, and we want to shed light on the challenges they face and the urgent need for more sustainable housing solutions within our community.

On the surface, living in a motel or hotel may seem like a solution to an individual experiencing homelessness. After all, these individuals have a roof over their heads and access to basic amenities. This situation is an illusion of security for most; the reality is far from ideal. Motels and hotels that cater to lower-income individuals are often not designed for long-term living, and the cost of staying in these establishments can quickly deplete a person’s financial resources, making it nearly impossible to save for a more permanent housing solution. To be clear, we are not speaking of the motels and hotels that are set up as small apartments for an extended stay; these accommodations often are billed at a much higher rate than the average room. Today, we are talking about what one would view as a “typical” hotel room, complete with a bathroom, bed, etc., but lacking amenities beyond that for long-term living.

One of the biggest challenges faced by those living in motels and hotels is the lack of stability. Many people in this situation live day-to-day or week-to-week, constantly worrying about whether they will have enough money to cover the next night’s stay. This perpetual state of uncertainty takes a toll on mental health, making it difficult to focus on other aspects of life, such as finding employment or addressing health concerns. This stress can be compounded when an individual is supporting a family in this situation.

Moreover, the cost of living in a motel or hotel is often significantly higher than renting an apartment or house. In many cases, individuals and families end up paying more for a cramped motel room than they would for a modest rental unit. This financial burden leaves little room for saving money, creating a vicious cycle that keeps people trapped in a state of hidden homelessness. The lack of affordable housing in our area can often leave those experiencing housing insecurity with few options, and that is how they find themselves amongst the hidden homeless population in our area. As an organization we recognize that finding access to affordable housing can be incredibly challenging in our area, and this is how individuals and families can find themselves stuck in this insecurity loop for their housing needs.

Those living in motels and hotels often face a range of other challenges. These establishments often lack proper cooking facilities, forcing residents to rely on expensive takeout meals or unhealthy packaged foods. The close quarters and lack of privacy can also put a strain on family relationships and mental well-being. Children living in motels may struggle to keep up with their education due to frequent moves and the lack of a stable learning environment. While a motel may provide temporary shelter, it is not a long-term solution to housing. Most children are intuitive and often have a basic understanding of the perilousness of this situation. The lack of secure housing puts an incredible mental strain on all who experience it.

At Nest, we recognize that the hidden homeless population living in motels and hotels is often overlooked in the conversation about the hidden homeless population in our area. We are committed to raising awareness about this issue and advocating for more comprehensive solutions that address the root causes of housing insecurity in our community.

One key step in addressing this problem is expanding access to affordable housing options. This includes increasing the supply of low-income rental units, connecting individuals in need to rental assistance programs, and investing in the development of more permanent supportive housing. By creating a range of accessible and sustainable housing options, we can help individuals and families transition out of motels and into stable, long-term housing.

Additionally, we must work to address the systemic issues that contribute to housing insecurity, such as low wages, lack of affordable childcare, and limited access to healthcare. At Nest, we also work with our community partners to connect individuals to the vast support network of services in La Porte County. By taking a holistic approach that addresses the interconnected challenges faced by the hidden homeless population, we can create a more equitable and resilient community for all.

We are committed to supporting those experiencing hidden homelessness and working towards lasting solutions through finding long-term, sustainable housing. By shedding light on the unsustainable reality of living in motels and hotels, we hope to inspire our community to take action and join us in the fight to end homelessness in all its forms.

Together, we can ensure that everyone in our community has access to the stable, affordable housing they need to thrive.