Hotel owner houses the ‘most vulnerable’ during coronavirus pandemic

The owner of the Thomas Paine Hotel in Thetford, Gez Chetal. Photograph Simon Parker

The owner of the Thomas Paine Hotel in Thetford, Gez Chetal. Photograph Simon Parker - Credit: Archant

A hotel owner has opened his doors to the homeless after he was forced to close it to customers amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Thomas Paine hotel.

The Thomas Paine hotel. - Credit: Archant Norfolk

The Thomas Paine Hotel in Thetford is one business which has kept busy during lockdown after its owner, Gez Chetal, offered seven of his nine rooms to keep the town’s most vulnerable off the streets.

Mr Chetal has previously worked with Breckland Council to provide temporary accommodation for the those who are struggling.

And despite being “devastated” they have been forced to cancel future events, Mr Chatel said its “his pleasure to assist the most vulnerable” during this time.

He said: “I closed my hotel and a couple of days later Breckland called me, because I have been providing accommodation for the homeless in small numbers for the last few years, so when they asked if I could provide rooms I thought, of course I will do it.

“We have had many functions, including three weddings, a 40th birthday party, charity dinner and the Punjabi festival in June with our accommodation at more than 90pc for next few months, so it was pretty devastating.

“But the main thing is the police want these people off the streets, so we have opened up and they are with us until all of this is over.

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“It gives me great pleasure to assist the vulnerable like we always have done.

“It has been a real community effort, the police are visiting regularly, they are all being fed by the salvation army, and town councillor, Mark Taylor, has been overseeing it all as I live away.”

But as well as providing a place to stay, Mr Chetal, who is also the founder of Prismstart a community interest company which helps ex-offenders get back into work, is trying to help those struggling to find employment, including work on local farms.

Mr Chetal added: “I have been liaising with them to say this is a chance for you to move back into society and to get some of these people back into work.

“Epecially as our local farms are struggling and we have more than capable people here to do this work rather that bringing people over to do the jobs that locals should be doing.

“If we assist them then I’m positive we should get these homeless people back into work and a roof over there heads.”