WDEL EXCLUSIVE: Hotel du Pont cancels reservation for homeless on Christmas

By Amy Cherry 10:40pm, January 7, 2015 - Updated 12:00pm, January 8, 2015
Instead of spending the night at the Hotel du Pont, six homeless people spent the night in their camp underneath the Amtrak bridge shown on the left. (Photo/Matt Senge)
One man's attempts to give the homeless a warm bed and a hot shower at the Hotel du Pont on Christmas Day go horribly awry.

WDEL's Amy Cherry has the story in this exclusive report.

Click here to listen

Dirty mattresses act as a wall to keep out the whipping wind on a brutal, cold winter night. It smells of urine and feces underneath the Amtrak bridge in Wilmington. This is where a community of homeless people live.

"The conditions down there are absolutely deplorable," said Matt Senge of the Road to Redemption Ministries.

Senge wanted to give six homeless people a Christmas present.

"I wanted to take them off the street even if it was just for a night," he said.

So he booked a two-bedroom suite at Wilmington landmark, the Hotel du Pont, for $639 for one night. Senge said he was clear from the beginning that the room was for homeless.

"They were blown away; they thought it was a wonderful idea, and we're talking about the reservation clerk," Senge said. "We talked to managers; we got everything worked out...so we made sure that there were no questions, I got a confirmation letter, they secured it. Everything was great, they were given hope that night."

WDEL obtained the authenticated e-mail confirmation.Click here to see the whole document.

Senge wrapped the confirmation e-mail in a red bow and delivered it to the two men, a woman, and her three children underneath the Amtrak bridge to let them know they would have a warm place to sleep on Christmas night.

They were blown away by the gesture of kindness.

"We were going to buy hygiene products; we were going to put gift baskets in their room, and we were going to fill it with food, and give them the opportunity to have a nice shower and have a nice safe place to sleep and wake up in the morning, maybe, with a different attitude," said Senge.

But three hours before check-in time on Christmas Day, Matt's phone rang. It was a staffer at the Hotel du Pont calling to cancel the reservation.

"He said verbatim, 'What if one of those people rapes or robs one of my guests?' So I guess you have to be homeless to rape or rob somebody. I was devastated," said Senge.

Brendan McEvoy, a spokesman for DuPont, told WDEL the reservation was canceled because he said these homeless men and women wouldn't have the proper photo identification at check-in.

"We talked, you know, internally with our staff here, and again, I think all of us were purely focused on the safety of our hotel guests, and that was why the decision was made. Whether or not...we're not going to comment on whether or not that statement was made; the discussion was purely focused on hotel safety."

Followed up with a question about whether hotel and guest safety is placed in a position of danger by the presence of the homeless, he responded:

"So when I talk about hotel safety that's sort of, regardless of whoever the guests are, under any circumstances, we wouldn't allow a guest to check in if they did not have photo ID," McEvoy said.

Senge said the hotel never gave him that reason, and he insists the homeless individuals in question have photo identification.

"After being disappointed and let down again, what if one of these individuals would've stuck a needle in their vein and OD'd because they were sick and tired of being sick and tired? What if one of 'em would've jumped off a bridge?"

He added hotel staff should be ashamed.

"What we need to realize is some of us are a paycheck away from being in their situation," said Senge. "How can we, in this society, live with a conscious that says that's okay? And I'm not gonna let this go."

Contact Amy Cherry at acherry@wdel.com or follow her on Twitter at @acherry13.

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