Compassion. Meaning to have sympathetic concern for the misfortunes of others. Compassion is something many of us may struggle with time-to-time as we wish to help those struggling in a time of need, but aren’t aware how to do so.
For Sharon Anderson, owner of the Nodyroc Motel and Outlaw Pizza in Corydon, she has found herself graciously opening her arms to those around her as many would attest to her giving nature. However after a recent unpleasant experience, that was not the first time to leave her with costly damages to repair in one of her motel rooms, she is left questioning how to continue her Christian ways of giving without being burnt in the end.
Over a week ago, a transient man passing through Corydon was given a voucher for a one-night stay in Anderson’s Nodyroc Motel. The voucher allowed him to present it for a stay with a roof over his head with the accommodations of a bed and bathroom for his use.
Unfortunately after the man left the hotel, the damages were discovered. Cigarette burns in the carpet and furniture as well as cigarette butts and weed joints left behind that ultimately are now left at Anderson’s expense.
“This puts me in a terrible position,” said Anderson. “As a Christian I want to do the right thing and help people, but it’s getting to the point I can’t afford to.”
The voucher system is one that was put together through local connections in the community. There are two funds with vouchers that can come back to Anderson for stays within the Nodyroc Motel.
“The Aid and Assistance Program is for local people within the community or have local connections that is through the Christ Community United Methodist Parrish,” said Pastor Diane Olson Schroder. “Sometimes people have had a situation where they have been evicted or leave their house for some reason or there is another kind of extenuating circumstance that causes them to be in need. We try to save that for local people.”
“Then there is the Benevolent Fund/Good Samaritan Fund that is administered through Attorney Alan Wilson’s office for transients,” Olson Schroeder continued. “This is for people passing through in whatever way they come. Most of them do have some kind of car but some can be like the recent man on the bike passing through. As pastors in our group we all feel that something needs to be there for these situations.”
“That’s when they come to me,” said Anderson.
“Yes and you with your good Christian heart love to help, but I don’t feel it should be laid upon a business in town to do the caring for us,” said Olson Schroeder. “I believe this should be a church issue.”
“I do too and the reason I wanted to bring Diane into this is because years ago we talked as I was having this same issue and we discussed maybe having a house for this need,” said Anderson. “Most of the time these people leave nothing but damages. Whether it is permanently stained linens or unsupervised children coloring the carpet, smearing peanut butter all over outlets and the beds themselves, we have seen it all. It costs me big money to replace the ruined linens and extra labor to do the cleaning. We don’t need to offer cable T.V. or the internet. They need a warm, dry place with clean sheets and a nice bed and maybe some books or games for kids.”
“After my recent rant on Facebook, several reached out to me offering to help whether it was money for the damages cable T.V. or the internet. They need a warm, dry place with clean sheets and a nice bed and maybe some books or games for kids.”
“I have often said if you wouldn’t let these people stay in your home then please don’t bring them to mine,” Anderson said. “After my recent rant on Facebook, several reached out to me offering to help, some offering money for the damages.”
“These people are being sent here from the sherriff’s office and talking to the pastors on the phone giving the okay and no one sees some of the people being sent to me at the hotel,” said Anderson.
“There isn’t time to get the sherriff’s office to do background checks, and we then just have to trust it will be okay,” said Olson Schroeder.
“In a perfect world we could have a small house donated or the churches go on a one or two month rotation,” Anderson said. “I don’t mind them coming to me to get sheets since I have the hotel but there’s so much to be figured out as well.”
“Your business though at the hotel has had numerous costly damages from these vouchers that have come to you,” Olson Schroeder said.
“Generally with these types of people we have labor intensive cleaning and repairs to be made,” said Anderson. “Usually all the towels and washrags as well as the sheets are ruined. Carpets have to be shampooed and walls washed down. Repairs have to be made.”
“It’s labor intensive, cost intensive, it’s effort intensive,” Olson Schroeder added.
“They aren’t accountable and don’t feel accountable because they aren’t paying for the room,” Anderson added. “I get reimbursed for the voucher for the stay, but then I get told I have to try to go after the individual for the damages.”
Not many towns offer a system like the one in Wayne County. Larger cities may have homeless shelters that can be offered for transients, but often times they won’t go there to stay.
“There are other towns that want no part of this and they say they have no place for them to stay and are just not receptive,” said Olson Schroeder. “Cities have a lot of things in place, but they get frustrated too.”
“Several have a system similar to what I used in school where they ask for collateral,” Olson Schroeder continued. “They say give me something that you will need back before you leave this place whether it’s a shoe or whatever then you get to spend a night here. This way all the rules, conditions and terms are down pat.”
The lack of mental health options in Iowa plays a big part in these situations. With what many call a failed system in Iowa it leaves people wondering how to handle this problem.
“There is a lot to do with mental illness and the lack of funding and availability of places for people to go,” said Olson Schroeder. “I’ve read where churches in larger towns will open their doors and have a room set up in the basement for people to stay in like this. They said it was wonderful because what is the sense in having this big wonderful church sitting empty all week except on meetings on occasion and worship on Sundays and it doesn’t hurt to get a little down and dirty.”
“If a separate entrance was available with no access to anywhere else it would be great if it was in the basement of a church and no access into the worship area,” said Anderson. “And in my experience, all tile on the floors and walls to help avoid stains and even bedbug outbreaks.”
With Anderson opening the door to her hotel rooms in the past for the transients, she has opened the doors for her business to be susceptible to the possible exposure of a bedbugs outbreak or worse which for a business can be costly. Some of the transients from the past can also give a negative image of her business as viewed by paying customers.
While there isn’t currently another option open, Anderson still plans to accept these vouchers, but the time has now come where a new plan needs to be set in place. Even as she wants to help those in need, her business cannot continue to be affected in a costly manner or negative light.
“There’s so many people willing and wanting to help that there has to be a different way,” said Anderson.
“There are so many in our community that will do anything for anyone and quietly living their lives and wanting to help others,” Olson Schroeder began. “I have an idea that I will present to the pastors group for an option so we can set up a system to be in place.”
Anderson estimates she has taken in one person a month the last six months at the Nodyroc Motel and she doesn’t want to see the voucher system gone entirely.
“We need to get talking because Sharon is our only option right now,” said Olson Schroeder. “We need to get a list of people going and see if there is anyone that can help take in transients knowing they would be paid.”
“If a committee is formed and ideas shot down I won’t give up on this because I have the most at stake here,” said Anderson.
“The recent incident triggered you and this is good to get the conversation started so this is a good starting point,” said Olson Schroeder. “The idea of a committee is good but it needs to be the entire area working on this.”
“Out of the goodness of Sharon’s heart she has done this for years and she has actually put her money where her mouth is with her compassion,” Olson Schroeder stated. “Compassion is everybody’s business. This would give others a chance to show their soft spot and compassion for people by stepping up to volunteer and help.”
“We are going to have the poor always and going to have transients always and we need people as innkeepers to take in people and rotate it where they have them only one night a year as a solution,” Olsson Schroeder continued.
If there is anyone interested in helping out whether donating money to the Aid and Assistance Program or the Benevolent Fund or wants to offer ideas or a place for transients to stay, you can reach out by email to WayneCountyCares@gmail.com.