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One of the UK’s largest hotel chains has been accused of “clear discrimination” against homeless people after it turned away rough sleepers who had been offered free rooms by a paying customer.
When Sarah Parker-Kahn, from Dartmoor, discovered she and a group of friends were unable to travel as planned to Weston-Super-Mare East, due to severe weather conditions – and that the Premier Inn would not refund the 19 rooms she had paid for – she decided to see if they could be used by local people.
The 38-year-old reached out to locals on Facebook groups and was contacted by several homeless charities who said they were at “crisis point” and could use the rooms to house some rough sleepers for the night amid freezing temperatures. 
Ms Parker-Kahn said she informed the Premier Inn hotel of this, but when two homeless people from charity Comfort and Warmth arrived with the room reference number, they were turned away because they did not have identification.
“When I reached out to local groups on Facebook I was contacted by several homeless charities who said they were desperate – at crisis point with the worst weather conditions for years – and that they could really use the rooms. Another woman also contacted me saying her house had flooded and she could use two rooms for her family,” Ms Parker-Kahn told The Independent.
 “I contacted the Premier Inn again and told them. They weren’t very happy about this, but we gave authorisation and said we were willing to take responsibility if any damage was caused.
“But when the homeless people turned up to check in, accompanied by a member of the charity, they were turned away. Yet a lady whose house has flooded was allowed in no problem.”
Ms Parker-Kahn said it was “clearly a case of discrimination”, adding: “They didn’t want undesirables. We’ve had the worst weather conditions for years, and the rooms were bought and paid for and guaranteed, yet they couldn’t find a reason to let them in.
“I think for rough sleepers particularly, who are often very vulnerable and at a low point in their lives, this would have been a real knock. It’s really disappointing and obstructive.”
Jon Codd, chairman of Comfort and Warmth, who has been working with homeless people for decades, told The Independentthe two homeless people who were turned away by the Premier Inn, a young man and woman, were "deserving" of a warm night's sleep and would not have caused trouble. 
He added: “The rooms had been paid for – it was no skin off their nose to let these people stay there.
“There’s a preconception about homeless people. There are enough rough sleepers in Weston as it is. We do what we can to support them, and it would help if we got a bit more help from businesses like this.
“I’ve worked with homeless people for 23 years. Some are real characters and terrific people, but they’re just struggling for whatever reason. When you treat them with respect you get the same back. Why shouldn’t everyone else?”
A spokesperson for Premier Inn said: "For legal, as well as obvious guest safety and security reasons, we need the names of everybody staying in our hotels and the lead booker must be accountable for all guests.   
"We spoke to the guest involved and informed her of this both on Friday morning, and again that evening but she failed to supply any guest names or details as we requested. 
"We are a business that works extensively with all disadvantaged groups with a track record of getting homeless people off the streets and back into work so we’re very disappointed that vulnerable people feel let down through absolutely no fault of their own.
"We will be reaching out to the two homelessness organisations involved."

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