With only eight days left this month, Bruce Brooks' Social Security check was enough to cover the cost of renting a hotel room in Greeley, and the money was not there.
Brooks, 61, is a former heavy equipment operator who had to retire early due to a stroke. Because of his age, if he were to get COVID-19, he would have a higher risk of complications, and the virus has spread widely in homeless shelters in Colorado.
Fortunately, the owner of the hotel where he stayed helped him establish contact with United Way in Wade County, which had just opened a new type of shelter in an unused apartment building. The room is simple, with a bed, micro-fridge, microwave, two chairs and a foldable table that your school may take out of the warehouse for the annual baking sale. Brooks said, but it is safe, warm and quiet, as you can imagine that any party has neighbors.
He said: "If this is an open (rental) regular place, I will stay here."
The shelter is located on the Bonell campus of the Good Samaritans Association in Greeley. It was a vacant building with 30 rooms that can accommodate people who are at higher risk of COVID-19 due to age or chronic diseases . Sean Walcott, Assistant Director of Home Stability at United Way in Weld County, said the project will open on November 6 and will continue until April 15. The campus also includes a nursing home, an assisted living facility and apartments for the elderly.
This is an example of non-profit organizations and governments going beyond traditional shelters during a pandemic. California and Oregon purchased hotels to provide transitional or permanent housing for the homeless.
, The city of Denver rents out 800 hotel rooms for people who are at high risk of COVID-19 complications or need safe isolation.
Walcott said that normally, United Way in Wade County runs an 80-bed emergency shelter in the winter, but only 39 people are isolated from society. They said they were considering renting a hotel room, but the city of Greeley helped establish a partnership with the Good Samaritan Association.
Greeley City Department of Economy and Housing Director Benjamin Snow (Benjamin Snow) said that New York City uses part of the federal coronavirus relief program to ensure that pipelines and other utilities are prepared for temporary residents. He estimates that about 40 people live in the shelter in the apartment because some rooms can accommodate couples.
Snow said that reducing the number of people in public shelters can make people living in them safer because they can keep their distance.
He said: "This basically made us spend some time during COVID-19."
Ryan Mertz, administrator of the Bonell community of Greeley’s Good Samaritan Association, said that the building was originally intended to be used for affordable housing, but the plan failed and was left vacant for at least a year. In the spring, they reached an agreement with Greeley to accommodate people who are less ill because the hospital needs to vacate beds. In the end, the hospital did not need to overflow, so they reached a new agreement to use it as a shelter in the colder months.
Cathy Alderman, spokeswoman for the Colorado Homeless Coalition, said that in Denver, federal disaster funds can provide hotels with temporary safe housing during the pandemic. She said that the permanent option also opened earlier this year at Quality Inn & Suites at 36th Avenue and Quebec Street. The tenants in the complex (called Fusion Studios) use 30% of their income to pay rent, and the rest is paid by the voucher program.
Alderman said that it took about six months to refurbish the hotel for long-term residents and cost $8.4 million, which is faster and cheaper than building new affordable housing. She said that some tenants may move into market rate housing, while others who need more support may live there.
She said: "I hope we can see more."
Walcott said Greeley’s apartment-style shelter is more expensive than an ordinary collective shelter because it is open 24 hours, rather than overnight. He said that in a normal year, the cost of running the shelter is about US$220,000, but this year the cost of the shelter will be US$380,000 because of the need for additional cleaning supplies and safety measures to enforce the distancing regulations. The cost of an apartment-style shelter is approximately $600,000.
However, the apartment model has advantages because private rooms reduce the chance of conflict, and residents reduce the number of hospital visits in the first month.
Some residents report that their health is improving. Michael Lynch said he has been homeless for ten years. He often sees a doctor in the local emergency room. In 2016, there were 113 visits. Shortly before moving into the shelter in November, he was unable to walk due to complications due to a drinking disorder. As of the beginning of December, he said that he hadn't drunk for three weeks and had begun to get along better with walkers.
He said: "I might have died there this winter."
The survey found that people who were moved to hotels in Seattle due to fear of COVID-19 have improved their physical and mental health. Compared with people living in traditional shelters, they are more likely to move into permanent housing, perhaps Because they don't have to spend a lot of money to worry about their daily survival time, they can start making plans.
Snow said that after the cold shelter closes, City and United Way will check whether people living in apartments are more likely to move into permanent housing. He said that if the results are better, they will study whether it is feasible in the long run.
Brooks had stayed in a hotel before, and he said he was trying to save money as a deposit, and the shelter navigator took him to check the apartment options. This is much easier than he has to rent a room, because the only expenses are groceries and food. Milo is a mix of Chihuahua and Pomeranian, and is his service dog.
He said: "Soon, maybe I will come back by myself."
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