Akash Kalia was just 21 years old when he decided to drop out of school at the University of Oregon for an astounding reason. Kalia’s parents were losing their motel business in Santa Rosa, CA, and turned to their son in desperate need of help.
The young entrepreneur was used to overcoming life’s challenges. Kalia had brain surgery at age 17 due to a birth defect, a life-changing moment that he described as the “best thing that ever happened” to him. The struggle taught him not to take life for granted, and was the catalyst that thrust him into adulthood.
When Kalia was just 12 years old, he suffered a paintball injury to the eye, and he used the settlement money to purchase the ailing motel from his parents. He then worked to convert the 104-room facility into housing for chronically homeless people and veterans, the first such center in the nation to house veterans and homeless people under the same roof.
The Palms Inn now provides desperately needed housing in an area where many people face a housing crisis. Veterans who hold housing vouchers are often unable to find a housing complex that will accept them. The Palms Inn helps to alleviate the struggle for America’s veterans, using the vouchers as an advantage.
Residents pay 30% of their income in rent, while federal and local funding pays the balance each month, including utilities. Using this strategy, Kalia will always have a steady stream of income to keep his business profitable.
“A hundred people don’t have to worry about where they’re going to sleep tonight,” Kalia said in an interview. “This is a highly vulnerable population. We’re taking people directly from the street, and helping them to transition back into society.”
In addition to the housing, The Palms Inn has partnered with Catholic Charities to provide job training and financial counseling, and resources to direct residents to mental health care and substance-abuse treatment.
“There’s more to life than just making a bunch of money and running a business, it’s about doing something good,” Kalia expressed. “I can actually impact other people’s lives, that’s what really counts.”