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Redditors Spread The Word About Donation-Based Pittsburgh Hostel

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Not Another Hostel
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It all started with Jon Potter being, what he called, homeless with a purpose.

“I was just traveling around, seeing the world and a lot of people would take me in and help me,” said Potter of his life in his late teens and early twenties. “I would ask people like, ‘Hey, how can I repay you for helping me?’ And they would always say, ‘Just help out somebody in the future.’”

When Potter decided to return to his hometown of Pittsburgh, he rented an apartment and decided that he would use his spare bedrooms as a hostel. But his hostel was different. Rather than charging a set rate for a night’s lodging, the visitors were simply asked to pay what they thought was the right amount.

Potter called it “Not Another Hostel,” and said he believes it is the only one of its kind in the world.

“There are rumors of one on the Appalachian Trail that doesn’t have a web site, and it’s only rumors, and you have to know where to look to find it,” Potter said. “That’s what makes it Not Another Hostel, that anyone can stay despite financial circumstance...  it's all about giving dignity to every traveler or homeless person.”

Potter later moved out of the apartment and into a home in Swissvale where he continued to run his hostel.

“It has two room with three hammocks in each … for people coming into town for a couple of days just to visit the city," he said. 

But Potter added a new twist.

“I also have two rooms for people in transitional situations getting off the streets,” said Potter.

There are very few homeless shelters that are not unisex.

Potter now has a second home that he uses for couples who need a place to stay and he is about to launch a much larger hostel in Pittsburgh.

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Credit Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA
Jon Potter sits with one of his tenants, a woman named Kendra.

“I’ve never met anybody like Jon,” said Kendra who was homeless for a few days. She was unable to find a place for she and her boyfriend to stay, everything was full, that is until the North Hills Community Outreach learned about Potter on the social media site Reddit.

“So Jon came down there and he actually had a meeting with us and said that we could move in that day,” said Kendra who has been in Potter’s home for about a month. “It was pretty much a godsend or we would still be on the streets.”

Potter said UC Berkeley did a study on his hostel, but Reddit is mostly behind much of his fame. At the beginning of 2015, he made a resolution that if anyone asked him for help on the street, or on Reddit, he would say yes.

“It’s been the most rewarding year of my life,” said Potter who said it's no longer a resolution, but a continued effort. “I can’t even go into it because there are so many cool stories.”

But Potter said he does, “appreciate being appreciated.”