Homeless are special guests at this Gardens hotel for the holidays


For the past five years, Homewood Suites by Hilton has had a day of empowerment for 12 women.

The hotel needs donations of gently-used clothing, shoes, jewelry, make-up and self-help literature.

Twelve women with no place to call home for the holidays will experience a day of luxury and empowerment at an upscale hotel next week.

Homewood Suites by Hilton has worked with the Homeless Coalition of Palm Beach County for the past five years to host women from a group home for a day. The special treatment includes a makeshift shopping spree and a makeover from a hairdresser and makeup artist, said Liz Oliver, general manager of the Palm Beach Gardens hotel.

RELATED: Soon, a new home for single, homeless women in Palm Beach County

The hotel also treats the women to a three-course dinner — the menu includes the traditional ham and sweet potatoes — and entertainment, before they go back to their group home in the evening.

The hotel opens up two oversized suites and fills them with clothes, shoes, purses and jewelry the women can pick out, wear to dinner in the dining room and take home with them.

For the first time, a life coach and financial advisor will spend an hour with the women, teaching life skills, such as how to budget and how to dress for an interview, Oliver said.

RELATED: How did Palm Beach Gardens woman go from homeless to home store owner?

One woman’s reaction about three years ago is seared into Oliver’s memory. Oliver gave the women instructions and pushed open the door to one of the suites where the wardrobes were arrayed.

“She gasped, and then she said, ‘Is this for us? People care?’” Oliver said. “It’s amazing.”

Now, the women look forward to it every year. Many of them take items with them to share with their friends, Oliver said. They range in age from 18 to their early 60s, she said.

It was heart-warming to see the women think about other people in their own need, said Laraine Sacco, a volunteer who helps Oliver with the event. They’re humbled by the generosity of people who want to help them, she said.

“A lot of them felt very forgotten. You could see a turning in them throughout the day,” said Sacco, who has helped spread the word and collect donations for the past few years. “They felt important again. They felt that they mattered and that they were somebody. It was a gift to me.”

Some of the women like to dress up, and others feel more comfortable in casual wear, so clothes of all types are needed, Sacco said.

The outreach event started when Oliver sat down in her office one day and decided the hotel staff should do something nice for the community for the holidays. They made Thanksgiving pies for homeless people about eight years ago, before Oliver organized the empowerment day for women and a Super Bowl party for men.

In February, the hotel staff will transform a meeting room into a living room with couches and a big screen TV. The chef barbecues in a courtyard next to the room, where the men can munch on popcorn, hot dogs and hamburgers.

“They get that feeling of tailgating,” Oliver said.

At the end of the night, they go home with the men’s clothes the hotel collected.

The hotel needs donations of new or gently-used clothing for men and women, shoes, jewelry, make-up and self-help literature. The items are due at Homewood Suites by Dec. 12. Oliver can also send a hotel car to pick up donations.

PALM BEACH GARDENS READERS: Be in the know with our weekly Palm Beach Gardens newsletter. Sign up now!

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

NEW: One struck, injured by car near Lake Worth High School
NEW: One struck, injured by car near Lake Worth High School

One person was flown to a hospital with serious injuries Tuesday afternoon after being struck by a vehicle in front of Lake Worth High School, Palm Beach County Fire Rescue said.  The crash happened at about 3 p.m. near Holiday Drive and Lake Worth Road. Paramedics arriving on the scene found an injured male in the roadway, said Capt. Albert Borroto...
LATEST: Riviera man faces attempted murder charges in two Sunday shootings
LATEST: Riviera man faces attempted murder charges in two Sunday shootings

A Riviera Beach man has been arrested in connection with two shootings Sunday a few miles apart that left three people hurt, according to authorities. Tyrone Johnson, 42, was taken into custody Tuesday by the U.S. Marshals Service and is expected to face three counts of attempted first-degree murder. Details of where and when Johnson’s arrest...
Here’s who’s in the running to buy Gardens property valued at $1.74M
Here’s who’s in the running to buy Gardens property valued at $1.74M

Three buyers are vying to take over six acres of city-owned property where the city once considered a rec center. RELATED: When will Congress Avenue extension open to relieve Northlake traffic? They are South African tennis pro Johan Kriek, Seacoast Utility Authority and the developer of commercial property to the south. RELATED: Why Gardens aims to...
BREAKING: One wounded in Riviera Beach shooting
BREAKING: One wounded in Riviera Beach shooting

One woman was wounded in a shooting Tuesday afternoon in Riviera Beach, city police said.  The shooting occurred shortly after 4 p.m. in the 800 block of West Seventh Street, off Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard west of President Barack Obama Highway. Police found a man in his 30s with a gunshot wound. The man was taken to a hospital...
More Stories