Louisvillians renting homes to strangers for Derby

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - As tens of thousands of people flock to Louisville for Derby weekend, finding a vacant hotel room may be like finding a needle in a haystack, so some entrepreneurs are coming up with creative ways to make money.

Jeff Cross is mowing his yard to welcome friends to town.

"Two in one bedroom, two in another, I have a sectional so two on that--that's six," said Cross. "There's a fold out futon in another bedroom."

But these friends, he's never even met.

"I went with the Craig's list route," said Cross.

They are paying $800 a night to stay there.

"$2400 total," said Cross. "It was a three night minimum."

He got the idea from his friends Ashley and Dominic Gratto, who live in St. Matthews. Who did it last year and are doing it again.

"They're coming from New York and there are I think eight," said Ashley.

She spent the weekend before cleaning up to host strangers they're trusting with their home.

"People who are willing to pay that kind of money and sign a contract," said Dominic of his guests. "We also require that they pay up front so we have a security deposit, plus we have all the money before they check-in, so you think those kind of people really aren't going to come destroy your home."

Of course Derby goers can always go the traditional route and stay in a hotel.

"As far as a good, comfortable clean place to sleep at night, we're right there," said Nina Mosley of Hotel Louisville. "$199 a night no minimum required."

Hotel Louisville is like most raising rates for Derby, but this one has a different story.

"The dual purpose of this building as being home for our homeless women and families and then also a hotel available for the public," said Mosley who is also with Wayside Christian Mission.

As far as Mosley knows, there is nowhere else like this in the country. Guests and residents are on separate floors. Many staff members are homeless, but at the hotel to earn money and get job experience. Mosley says most guests don't mind.

"Most people are perfectly fine," said Mosley. "We've been open now for about a year and a half I think we've had three folks who didn't want to stay."

One hotel guest says he plans to stay for six months.

"I've been here two months," said a long-term guest. "I love this place. I could have gone anywhere, but there's God in this building and there's a lot of good people here."

For Derby they're expecting folks from all over including repeat customers from Ireland. They've even hosted a celebrity.

"We had one rap artist that stayed with us on the 12th floor and the producer was so happy with it he brought several other folks throughout the year to stay in that same suite," said Mosley.

In the end everyone needs a place to stay on Derby weekend and it just take a few creative ideas to figure out how cash in, which could be staying at Hotel Louisville...

"That's weird, but at the same time if it's a good value people are going to say, so what if it's a homeless shelter," said Dominic Grotto. "It's a heck of a lot cheaper than staying at the Marriott."

Or it could be opening up your home for the right price.

"Is it enough?" asked Cross laughing. "Yeah."

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