St. Joseph County And City of South Bend Commit CARES Act Funding To Housing Homeless In Motels

Oct 2, 2020

This motel in Roseland was used earlier this year to provide housing for homeless individuals with COVID-19.
Credit Annacaroline Caruso/WVPE

On Oct. 1, St. Joseph County officially approved funding for the Motels4Now initiative, which has worked to house homeless citizens in motels after shelters closed during the pandemic.

Previously, the initiative was funded through an anonymous private donation.

 

According to community activist Araquel Bloss, who has worked with Motels4Now since the beginning of the pandemic, the county contributed over $530,000 and the City of South Bend contributed nearly $3,500. The money can be used through March 2021.

 

After months of weekly Zoom calls with county and city officials, Bloss said the funding was a long time coming.

 

“We haven’t received a penny of government money in all of these months that we’ve been asking for help," Bloss said. "So it’s miraculous that we’ve finally gotten the okay, and we’re glad to be working with the county.”

 

Bloss said that the initiative is a "shelter-first" model, but not "shelter-only." Part of the money will be used for direct funding to motels, but some will also go to Our Lady of the Road.

 

"[They] contracted us, and that's for transportation and the street outreach workers that were considered to be administering the program," Bloss said. "Making sure the policies are happening, developing policies, speaking with all the other organizations and putting the pieces together.

 

The city's contribution will be used to fund "wraparound services" through Oaklawn. That includes case managers, recovery coaches and psychiatric evaluations, if necessary.

 

"It's more of a triage operation where we get folks shelter first, then we see what they need," Bloss said. "It's very person-centered, you know, what the person may require. And sometimes they don't require a lot, they just need a little lift to get back on their feet."

 

Bloss said the next phase of the initiative, which is to build contracts between motel owners and the county, is already in the works. She said the county would negotiate those contracts directly through its lawyers.

 

Bloss hopes the relationship between Motels4Now and St. Joseph County can serve as a model for similar efforts in other counties.

 

"I hope that the surrounding counties that haven't moved forward in using their CARES dollars to help the houseless become sheltered...during the COVID pandemic, that they talk to us and move forward in helping [their] own residents there that need help," Bloss said.

 

Contact Gemma at gdicarlo@wvpe.org or follow her on Twitter at @gemma_dicarlo

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