With a one and half stars on Tripadvisor, the Stay Inn is one of the lowest rated motels in Australia. Reviews of the Coburg establishment warn of boarded up windows and bullet holes, and urge other travellers to avoid the “slum”. But the reality of the residence is far more complex.
The majority of the clients arrive from prison or homeless services. Without the understanding and acceptance of the manager Phil and his staff, many would be homeless. They exist in the state’s public housing and social service gaps. Marginalised and vulnerable, often isolated from their own support networks, they come to rely on Phil's community for support as they work to reorder their lives.
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But despite the undeniable power of individual altruism, the Stay Inn is not a sustainable substitute for public support services. Fights are common, so are police. Drugs and are always present. Phil and the staff bare the weight of it, often absorbing the financial impact of residents who can’t pay but have nowhere else to go. They have little option but to continue on, because the reality is if the Stay Inn isn’t looking out for the residents, no one is.
This article originally appeared on VICE AU.