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HIRING HOMELESS IS GOOD BUSINESS SENSE, DAYS INNS PRESIDENT TELLS ILLINOIS MEETING

 CHICAGO, April 22 /PRNewswire/ -- Hiring the homeless makes good business sense, Days Inns of America, Inc., President and COO John Russell told an audience of hospitality executives and homeless advocates meetings here.
 Russell told the audience the Days Inn experience has been that the homeless can be trained in the new technologies and become valued employees, but assistance from social service agencies is essential.
 Days Inns, with nearly 1,375 hotels, has been a pioneer nationally in hiring the homeless, seniors and the handicapped. The company has become known as "The Company With A Heart" for advocating and facilitating the hiring of these groups by businesses.
 Russell spoke at a two-day conference, "Linking Hospitality to the Homeless," co-sponsored by the Illinois Community Action Association, the Hotel-Motel Association of Illinois, the Illinois Restaurant Association, and the Interagency Council on the Homeless.
 Days Inns, after an unsuccessful first attempt to hire the homeless, developed a successful program which at its peak had as many as 40 homeless persons at one time working at its reservation center in Atlanta. The program was operational for two years, until operations were moved to Knoxville.
 "Although we had highly successful programs to hire and train seniors and people with disabilities, the homeless presented us with special challenges," Russell warned the audience. "We were successful only after we worked with a social services agency that dealt with issues beyond our area of expertise."
 "We didn't set out to do something that was socially responsible, we were just trying to solve an employment turnover problem at our reservation center. Our successes are just examples of a business solution. In business you have to be willing to break some new ground to be successful. We have done that, and we have a good feeling about what we have done," Russell said.
 "Yes, it is easier for a corporation to write a check and be done with the problem. But there is much more at stake here than favorable publicity, it's called caring, and at Days Inn this has become our culture-A Company With A Heart culture is the Company With A Heart dedication."
 Russell said he was happy to be in Chicago where the Days Inn Lakeshore Drive is a participant in a local version of the program. One employee, Joyce Holly, has been working at the property for two years as a reservationist and now has a residence of her own.
 Days Inns started its Company With A Heart program by hosting Job Fairs for senior citizens to fill positions in the Days Inns Reservations Center. At the time, the company was experiencing turnover rates well in excess of 100 percent per year. Days Inns has discovered that older workers are the ideal employees for the service-oriented business - they are more patient, tolerant, and genuinely interested in the customers they serve.
 After several years of success, Days Inns offered the Job Fair idea to its properties. This will be the fifth year that Days Inn properties across the country will sponsor Senior Power Job Fairs with events planned to acquaint and introduce seniors to employers and organizations in their communities. The Days Inns Job Fairs will be held May 21 or 22. Last year 1,500 businesses met with more than 15,000 job applicants.
 Russell said that Days Inns was willing to hire the homeless because of the earlier success in hiring seniors and the handicapped.
 "We did our homework. Our company volunteers met with homeless advocates, and we laid out a plan of action, screened and interviewed candidates, gave them three weeks of intensive training, and we promptly fell flat on our faces. Not for the lack of effort and desire to succeed, but because we failed to recognize that our candidates were special people who had needs beyond a job and a home-many of these candidates had deeply rooted social problems that required hands-on counseling - a field where we just don't have expertise," he said.
 "But we went back to the drawing boards, and started to work with a shelter for women. The shelter provided screening, baby-sitting, counseling and other services, allowing us to do our part-provide jobs.
 Bill Hodges, an advocate of the homeless, and a Days Inn franchisee, offered to give us hotel rooms in one of his properties for $10 a night. We purchased refrigerators and microwave ovens.
 Days Inns paid $5 a night for the room, and deducted $5 a night from employee paychecks. At the height of our program we had 40 homeless people working and staying with us. As participants got their lives together, they moved out of the motel, opening up the rooms for others."
 Last January Days Inns was purchased by HFS, and a greatly expanded reservation center was opened in Knoxville, Tenn. Days Inns offered all employees at the Atlanta center a job in Knoxville. Some reservationists, including one who started our "homeless," made the transition and remains with the company.
 Days Inns has another homeless employment project at its Satellite Reservations Center in Phoenix, Ariz.
 Days Inns of America, Inc., is the third largest hotel brand in the world and the fastest growing in the moderate segment of the lodging industry.
 -0- 4/22/93
 /CONTACT: Brian Feldman of Days Inn, 201-952-8481/


CO: Days Inn ST: New Jersey, Illinois IN: LEI SU:

AH -- NY045 -- 9366 04/22/93 11:20 EDT
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Date:Apr 22, 1993
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