The Lincoln Tunnel Motel in North Bergen, New Jersey, may not be the most high-end guest house you’ll find in town, but it has gained quite a following online because of its noble mission.
Brian Acosta Arya, 34, known online as “Brian the Motel Guy,” is doing more than just renting out the rooms at the family-owned inn—he’s also offering lodging, food, and services to folks in need.
Brian’s father, George, granted him partial ownership of the motel in 2012. With that, he became part of the family business after years of saying he’s “not going down the motel route.”
Brian is sure glad he did. Their 41-room motel now provides shelter for people who have been forced from their homes by COVID-19 or other personal tragedies.
“I was doing the night shift while pursuing my acting career during the day,” he told CBS News.
Brian found it difficult to work the graveyard shift, so he decided to incorporate his passion for acting and creating into his job at the motel.
He started creating funny TikTok videos about the humble lodge with his coworker, “Steven the maid,” who often puts on a maid costume for the sake of the TikTok.
Their silly clips have gained over 858,000 followers on the platform, and it’s not only because they make people laugh. Some of their videos are inspiring and heartfelt.
Brian pretends to be his 16-year old self in one clip. His younger version is shocked that he’s working at his father’s motel, but present-day Brian assures him that they are “helping people.”
He had an idea one day. What if he offered a free one-night stay to anyone who followed them through TikTok. Around this time, the pandemic struck.
“People started getting quarantined, lockdowns starting happening, and then we started seeing an influx of unhoused people,” Brian recalled. “You know, they just couldn’t afford rent anymore. And so, they’d come to our motel. And that just snowballed from there.”
Brian let anyone who needed a place to stay rent a room at the motel for free and promoted it on TikTok as the “Free Room for You” program.
This one act of generosity inspired many others to do the same. Some of the motel’s TikTok followers pitched in by sending donations in the form of food, money, toiletries for the people living there.
“People will come in and not want to rent a room, but say, ‘Hey, I want to rent this for the next person.’ And that’s just incredible,” Brian said.
Students from a local college found him on TikTok and started donating food from the school’s free food pantry to the motel tenants. People from all over the country have also helped clear out Brian’s Amazon wish list, which contains a list of supplies he copied from other similar initiatives.
The motel and its donors are more urgent now that the temperatures are below freezing. The community has responded with their support.
According to Brian, a person who asked to remain anonymous dropped around 20 care packages they’ve made themselves. They were meant for him to give to someone random walking down the street.
Brian stated that he has already given away between 50 and 60 rooms. About half the people who lost their homes in the pandemic are still living at the motel.
Brian’s popular TikTok posts have earned him a guesting on “The Kelly Clarkson Show” in November. The program gave him $5,000 to help more people.
“I want the Lincoln Tunnel Motel to be a beacon of hope for this community and for my followers all over the world,” he said. “And if the best thing I can do to spread that beam of hope is give a room to someone in need, then I’m happy to do so.”
Listen to Brian as he talks about the Lincoln Tunnel Motel’s free stay program in the video below.
You might follow Brian on his social accounts: TikTok – Instagram| Instagram | Twitter.
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