The Empress Hotel:
All That Matters is Where You Are Now
A hotel is “an establishment providing accommodations, meals, and other services for travelers and tourists.” (Merrian-Webster, 2003). What a word to describe a safe house for the chronically homeless with special needs. Roberta Goodman, the General Manger of the Empress Hotel, thinks it fits just fine. She started managing the facility in 2004 (Department of Public Health Direct Access to Housing). The facilities hold people from all backgrounds, groups, and shockingly from all social classes. Many of the dwellers of Empress Hotel lived very different lives before they arrived at the building’s front steps (Saraf & Light, 2009). This very idea showed that all the social privileges once afforded to individuals in a socially structured society were directly connected to their ability to fit in, not skin color or any other characteristics they may have believed mattered.
The film details the life and history of some very interesting residents. There is a close look at the life of a few of them, while watching their interaction with the other residents in the house. The film opens with Sonya, a woman suffering from crack addiction, who loves the hotel and the room she has been allotted. Her life took a bad twist after her mother died and she lost her children. She spends her days walking around her city, attempting to make the most of life, occasionally smoking marijuana. Marguerite used heroin, but got clean four years prior to the making of the documentary. Before getting clean, she gave her children up to her family members and lost her house. She felt that when she was an addict, people did not talk “to” her; they talked “at” her. “That is why addicts never listen.” (Saraf & Light, 2009).
Both Sonya and Marguerite were addicts, which led to their current status. Others in the house had stories that were not as predictable. Lynn was a college graduate who got accepted to MIT. She specialized in holograms. She was very successful in her field, but then the field died out and she dropped significantly on the social class hierarchy. Her family and colleagues did not support her during her downfall. She became homeless and society labeled her mentally ill. Eventually, she became psychotic and ended up in the Empress Hotel (Saraf & Light, 2009).
Paul Wood had a successful business and a happy marriage. In 2000, he had a spiritual awakening that changed his life. His wife was unable to understand his religious views and he became violent. She eventually left him and he tried to overdose to get away from his problems (Saraf & Light, 2009). According to Dr. Dian Williams of West Chester University, he was psychotic (Williams, 2011). Once Paul was titled with his mental disability, he lost everything he had. All his success was removed and he was reduced to the struggles of chronically homelessness.
At the time of the documentary, all four of these...