In March, Premier Vacation Rentals Group began providing lodging for first responders, medical personnel, elderly residents , family members of medically compromised individuals, and others in need of housing who need to self isolate.
The company operates in Durango, Ouray, Ridgeway, Vail, Denver, Moab, and some other popular vacation areas outside of Colorado, catering to many who call Durango their second home.
Premier is placing new applicants on a daily/weekly basis and expects the program to be available “as long as the need exists and our homeowners remain willing to participate,” said Mary Beth Miles, Chief Operating Officer.
At the time of this article’s publication, the program has no wait list. Approximately 50 homeowners have agreed to donate their homes for use in the program, and the average home size is two to three bedrooms. There is a maximum occupancy potential for the program of as many as 250 people.
The property owners, who are out of state, are concerned about Durango and have generously opened their homes. “I think people are really looking for an opportunity at this time, where business isn’t what it once was, to help their communities,” shared Chris Bettin, Co-founder & CEO of Premier.
One of the stories that Premier shared with RMPBS was that of a sheriff’s deputy engaged to an ER nurse. The deputy became unable to live at home with his fiancee because her teenagers all share a rare blood disorder that makes them at high-risk for contracting COVID-19. Before hearing about Premier’s program, the sheriff’s deputy had first moved to his parents’ house to avoid infecting the children, then to a hotel. The day he saw Premier’s ad, he was contemplating moving into a camper to avoid high costs.
He said: “that same day I went from [being] the only person in a smelly motel to one of the only people in a gorgeous condo in God’s country. Now I wake up and drink my coffee to these mountains, the slopes, and peace and quiet.”
To apply for assistance all applicants to the program are required to undergo a screening process that includes a background check and financial screening.
Other Durango-based vacation rental businesses have followed suit, and Bettin said Premier is working with the worldwide Vacation Rental Managers Association to help rental businesses launch similar programs in their communities.
They have also set up a program where homeowners can donate two-night complimentary stays for nonprofit organizations in the communities they operate. These stays will be used as auction items for fundraisers for organizations experiencing coronavirus-related increased demands on their services.
There's also a collaborative program emerging to “Feed the Frontlines,” raising money to provide free meals from Durango restaurants for medical workers.
“I’m working with all of these people from disparate organizations that I don’t work with, and never have worked with, and we’re forming these groups and doing these things very quickly together. It’s fun. I’m getting to work with a guy who is my favorite chef in the community, who I’ve known for years, and all of a sudden we’re working on this program to feed hundreds of people a day… I think that the silver lining in all of this is that you get closer with your community, and you get closer with people that you really care about,” Bettin said.