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Hamilton County administrator recommends $1.1M allocation to pay for homeless people's hotel rooms

Posted at 12:22 PM, Apr 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-06 12:32:48-04

CINCINNATI — HAMILTON COUNTY, Ohio — County and health officials have been working with homeless shelters to figure out how to achieve proper social distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Hamilton County Commissioner Denise Driehaus said on Monday.

To help achieve that, the Hamilton County administrator proposed a $1.1 million allocation to help cover the costs for hotel rooms that are housing people who had been staying in homeless shelters, Driehaus said.

Driehaus said the money would help in two ways: The allocation would go to Strategies to End Homelessness so that shelters can cover the cost of housing high-risk people and families in hotels. In turn, this will open up space in the shelters.

The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners is scheduled to vote on the allocation on Thursday.

Driehaus said county officials landed on the $1.1 million figure by calculating the number of people who need to be moved with the idea that each person will need to stay for 45 days to ride out Gov. DeWine’s stay-at-home order.

Fifty percent of the money will come from an increase to the county’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Emergency Solutions grant, and the other half will come from the county’s allocation under the federal stimulus legislation.

Officials will be deliberate and careful with the more than $100 million they’re expecting to receive from the federal stimulus package, Driehaus said.

“If we have those kinds of resources, we need to do some homework to figure out where those dollars would be best used,” Driehaus said.

Kevin Finn, president of Strategies to End Homelessness, said each night in Hamilton County, there are about 750 to 800 people either on the streets or in a shelter.

Finn said it’s important to move people into hotel rooms because social distancing is not possible at most family shelters. Some of those shelters, including Bethany House, Salvation Army, Interfaith Hospitality Network of Greater Cincinnati and YWCA of Greater Cincinnati, have already moved families into hotel rooms, he said.

About 66% of the county’s homeless population is made up of single individuals, Finn said. In an effort to deconcentrate shelters for single people, leaders have identified elderly people and those who are most at risk of getting seriously sick to move them into hotel rooms.

No one staying at a shelter has tested positive for COVID-19 at this time, according to Finn.

The City of Cincinnati established a 30-bed quarantine unit at the Over-the-Rhine Community Center.

Finn said several people have used the first section of the community center, where people who have symptoms wait for their test results. The other area is reserved for people who test positive for the virus.

Driehaus reported a “significant increase” in COVID-19 cases in Hamilton County. The spike is due to the fact that there are more positive cases and also more test results are coming back from private labs.

In Hamilton County on Monday there were:

  • 319 positive cases of COVID-19 (officials reported 178 on Friday)
  • 61 of those are hospitalized
  • 7 COVID-19-related deaths