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After major renovation, Windsor hotel that served the homeless during the pandemic reopens to the public

Hotel survives pandemic housing homeless ready to reopen to public
Hotel survives pandemic housing homeless now ready to reopen to public 02:18

WINDSOR (KPIX) --  After months providing shelter to homeless people during the pandemic, a Windsor hotel has undergone a massive renovation. Now it has reopened but the owners are now facing a different set of challenges.

The Windsor Holiday Inn opened in 2017. First, it dealt with the threat of wildfires, and then in 2020, business plummeted as the pandemic started.

That's when the owners and Sonoma County struck a deal to rent rooms to the homeless community.

"Very very hesitant on wanting to go that direction but it was only one of the ways possible to make it through that time," said Nick Desai Jr., the GM/Owner Holiday Inn Windsor Wine Country.

Desai saw occupancy rates fall below 10% after the pandemic began. Not only did he face to possibility of huge financial losses, he knew he would have to lay off employees. The family then took an unconventional step to keep the business going. 

"For us we know we did a good thing for the community. We know we did a good thing for ourselves and our staff. We met this facility afloat and we were able to open this facility to the public again," Desai explains.

Roughly half of the 100 rooms were rented to those that were unhoused during the pandemic. Once the contract ended with the county, the next hurdle appeared. 

"Within 6 weeks, we turned around this entire place to become a hotel and restaurant and bar again," Desai said.

Everything in the hotel was steamed cleaned. Mattresses, bedding and carpets were replaced. Numerous inspections were done before opening to the public again. 

Was there was a kind of a fear on the backend on how people would perceive this property?

"There was and there still is," said Desail.

It was a risk Desai was willing to take knowing it would take time to change some people's perceptions. He says, if the opportunity presented itself again, he would make the same decision knowing that he was able to help some of the most vulnerable people in the community during the pandemic. 

"Yes there are people that are going to take it for granted but a majority of them were working individuals that just could not afford to afford housing in this area."

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