Homeless Vets Receive Extension At Local Hotel

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About a dozen homeless veterans, some with spouses and children, were told early Friday (Sept. 20) they must immediately leave the Bentonville hotel where they had been staying at reduced rates.

However, after 5NEWS posted a Web story at midday Friday about the veterans being ousted, the hotel negotiated with veterans’ advocates to allow them to stay until Oct. 1, when they will move into a hotel in Springdale.

The homeless veterans had been living since this summer at Wingate by Wyndham on 7400 S.W. Old Farm Blvd. but have fallen behind in room payments by about $7,000 to $10,000, said Rebecca Mabry of the Arkansas Veterans Children Fund. The fund assists the homeless veterans in raising donations and seeking grant money to pay for food and lodging, Mabry said.

The veterans were paying $14 a night for rooms that, according to the hotel’s website, are listed at $99 a night and more.

The Arkansas Veterans Children Fund had an agreement that the veterans could fall behind in payments until December, with the understanding that grant money and donations might take awhile to come in, Mabry said. Altogether the veterans have paid about $5,000 since May, when the program began, Mabry said.

However, Mabry received an e-mail on Friday morning from Linda Smith, president of Sunway Hotel Group in Overland Park, Kan., saying the veterans must leave.

“At this time we are requesting that you immediately relocate all vets currently at the Wingate Inn Bentonville,” the e-mail from Smith states. “We understand you have other accommodations for them and the fact that the current guests are not contributing anything to their rooms we are requesting that you relocate them effective immediately.”

That e-mail was followed by one saying the veterans could stay until early next week.

Smith told 5NEWS on Friday the franchise owner, Donald Culbertson of Kansas, is an Army veteran who began the program almost six months ago out of the kindness of his heart, but when veterans’ advocates told the veterans last week to stop paying, the hotel had no choice but to end the arrangement.

“It’s unfortunate,” she said. “Our hearts were in the right place.”

Mabry said the veterans were told to stop paying so they could save enough money to put a deposit down on another place.

Mabry told 5NEWS an Extended Stay America motel in Springdale has agreed to accept the veterans and their families at $30 a night on Oct. 1

Meanwhile, in a development late Friday, Wingate by Wyndham in Bentonville agreed to led the veterans stay until Oct. 1, Mabry said.

The veterans, all honorably discharged, range in age from 28 to 84, Mabry said. Ten children are among the veterans’ families, Mabry said.