St. Joseph County Council committee approves one-year extension of Motels4Now, other ARP projects
A St. Joseph County Council committee has approved extending the Motels4Now homeless shelter program until March 2023 at a cost of $1.63 million. The funding is coming from the county’s share of federal COVID relief dollars through the American Rescue Plan.
The extension will get a final vote at the council’s next meeting in February.
Created in Aug. 2020 as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Motels4Now provides low-barrier shelter for the chronically homeless in the Knights Inn on South Bend’s west side.
The program is coordinated by the nonprofit Our Lady of the Road. South Bend is paying for mental health and addiction treatment services from Oaklawn, and St. Joseph County is paying for staff operating costs and the rooms.
In September 2021, the St. Joseph County Council voted 6 to 3 to extend Motels4Now for six months until March 2022 at a cost of $829,000. And in a Tuesday night committee meeting, the council agreed to extend the program for one more year until March 2023.
Our Lady of the Road executive director Margaret Pfiel said Motels4Now has served 442 people since August 2020.
There are currently 103 people housed at the motel, with 386 on the waiting list. And 220 former residents have gone on to “better options,” such as permanent housing, addiction treatment or placement with a family member.
And program head Sheila McCarthy said changes have been made in response to concerns raised about security and the quality of the building when the extension was approved back in September.
They’ve established a trash cleanup program, which motel residents participate in, and have been meeting regularly with local businesses, the Lincoln Bendix Neighborhood Association and the Lincoln Plaza neighbors.
McCarthy said police calls to the motel are less than half of what they were in the summer, and the majority are non-emergency situations. The motel has night staff members present, a full-time night security guard and 24-hour security cameras.
It also has a new front security gate, a new roof on building three, a new water heater for building two and some room renovations.
McCarthy said Motels4Now is currently housing 75 percent of St. Joseph County’s unhoused population.
“We’re committed to being good neighbors for as long as we need to stay there, in our current location,” McCarthy said. “But, as Margie said, we have plans to move to a better place.”
To that end, Our Lady of the Road is in the early stages of developing a $7.2 million plan for a permanent 120-bed low-barrier intake facility.
Pfiel said the organization has raised $40,000 toward that effort so far and spent most of it on a series of meetings with Kil Architecture, motel residents and neighbors to develop infrastructure and design proposals for that permanent facility.
Our Lady of the Road expects to have a draft plan for that permanent center within the next few months and is also in early talks with Portage Manor to potentially use some land there to build it.
The council committee also approved a $3.75 million ARP appropriation to the United Way of St. Joseph County.
The money will be used to help fund the construction of three new community centers — one in Mishawaka, another in Walkerton and a third in northwest South Bend — and create four social innovation hubs providing childcare, health and wellness, youth programming, affordable housing resources and coordinated social services.
The United Way’s total project cost is $38 million, and the organization has already secured $11 million in private donations.
Other major ARP appropriations included $1 million to Cultivate Care Network for building two new truck docks and a larger freezer to create a shared cold storage area for local food pantries and soup kitchens
The Center for the Homeless also received $1 million for renovations to increase shelter capacity to accommodate 200 people per night with improved social distancing in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
All will have a final vote at the council’s next meeting in February.
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