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.”
But Brian is surely glad that he did. Now, their 41-room motel provides homes to people who have been displaced due to COVID-19 or other personal tragedies.
“I was doing the night shift while pursuing my acting career during the day,” he told CBS News.
Working the graveyard shift was difficult, so Brian decided to bring his love for creating and acting into his job at the motel to make things more fun.
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 actually inspiring and heartfelt.
In one clip, Brian pretends to talk to his 16-year-old self. 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.”
One day, an idea suddenly came to him. What if he offered a free night stay to anyone who followed them on TikTok? Around that time, the pandemic hit.
“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.
That one generous act inspired many others to do one of their own. 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.
Now that temperatures are freezing outside, the need for the motel and donors has become stronger. Thankfully, the community has continued to step up.
According to Brian, a person who asked to remain anonymous dropped around 20 care packages they’ve made themselves. They were for him to give to a random person walking in the street, and he did just that.
So far, Brian said he has given away 50 to 60 free rooms. About half of the residents who lost their homes at the start of the pandemic are still at the motel.
Brian’s popular TikTok posts have earned him a guesting on “The Kelly Clarkson Show” in November. There, the program awarded him $5,000 so that he could 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.
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