Jared, San Francisco, Philadelphia discussed on The Takeaway
The cove nineteen pandemic has four cities all across the US to try and address homelessness in a more comprehensive way. Some major cities including Philadelphia New Orleans and San Francisco are putting unsheltered people into hotels to keep them safe from the spread. We recently spoke to San Francisco. Mayor London breed about the challenges. Involved as this is the age of social distancing and I think that it's a lot more challenging not just for San Francisco but for anyone with a large homeless population so to expect us To all of a sudden opened up every hotel room and have the ability to take care of houses this group of people and things will get better is is not necessarily realistic. But the fixes cities are implementing including moving people are experiencing homelessness into hotels are largely temporary. So what happens when the Cova Nineteen pandemic has passed? Many advocates are hoping the scale of this crisis will force officials to put new policies in place that will make lasting change to keep unsheltered people safe and to reduce homelessness overall. Nan Roman joins us to talk about this. She's the president and CEO of the National Alliance to end homelessness. And Jared Bray is with US also. He's a freelance reporter in Philadelphia and Housing Correspondent for the nonprofit news organization. Next City Hain. An he jared. Hello thanks for having me jared. Can you start by giving us an overview of the scope of Cova nineteen effect on people who are experiencing homelessness nationwide? And where are we seeing the most significant impact? Well these folks are among the most vulnerable in any event and so with a public health. Emergency like the one we're facing now and The possibility of a disease that so communicable folks who don't have homes are at some of the greatest risk the main public directive to avoid spreading this disease to stay at home and so for people who don't have homes that's clearly impossible and you know please like. New York have experienced with the greatest outbreak so I think that the folks who were on housed there are seeing some of the worst two cities all over are trying to figure out how to deal with housing. People who haven't been house for a long time are now at a much greater risk of harm Nan. There has been some federal relief action to support states and cities who are having efforts to try and offer assistance to people who are currently experiencing homelessness. What kind of federal action have we seen so far? Well there's been considerable investment in helping communities to address homelessness during the the pandemic so congress provided four billion dollars in emergency solutions grant funding which is a flexible kind of Formula Funding. That goes to everyone in the country and that is going to provide a lot of assistance. What needs to be done really is twofold to get people into spaces that can form with the CDC guidance so that they have enough distance between each other and they're quarantined or isolate if they need to be and then also to address. What's going to happen during the economic recovery and those? Espn resources will help with that. There's also other federal money. Relief Fund and other programs that could provide assistance to homeless people during the pandemic. And when you say four billion dollars I mean give us a sense of whether that's that's a large amount of money for this or is that a drop in the bucket. Well we didn't estimate or we actually ask. University of Pennsylvania researcher and some colleagues to do an estimate of what it would cost just to reconfigure the shelter to conform to CDC guidance around these issues and they estimated it would cost eleven point five billion dollars to do the we got four billion of that We still are going to need additional resources and that isn't really even moving people long into housing. That's really just to reconfigure the current system Jared Whitman. Speaking on this show about how many cities have been moving people who are street homeless to hotels or community centers. Can you give us a sense of how this is working in a few different cities? Yeah you know. Most cities are like you mentioned trying to Lee's most cities that I've heard about are trying to find hotel rooms to individually house homeless people who either have been infected or at least exposed to the virus certain degree. There's also sort of questions around how to shelter people in emergency ways. That don't involve know Congress shelters. I think a lot of the typical homeless shelters we think of people are pretty close together and don't a lot of personal space and that's clearly become a problem During the pandemic in San Francisco and a lot of other cities in California local governments county governments in state government to a certain degree was trying to lease hotel rooms for this purpose and a couple of have talked about currently acquiring hotels. I know Missoula Montana recently. Just purchased a motel downtown that it's going to use for emergency housing for people who've been exposed or infected and then once the emergency is lifted. Hopefully if the emergency that relisted lifted they're gonNA plan to Redevelop Properties permanent affordable housing. So they're trying to sort of birds with one stone which is Housing question and the longer term affordable housing shortage which is which contributes to the homelessness problem in the first place we have been talking to a lot of jurisdictions that are trying to use the hotel motel strategy When concern we have is at very few unsheltered. People are being brought into shelter. Most of the people that are moving into the hotels and motels seemed to be coming out of shelters. That are trying to thin out to some degree. We also know that jurisdictions are saying telling us that they're having a difficult time staffing those hotels and motels a lot of organizations. Sheltering organizations have lost staff people. Either because they've become ill or because They're concerned about catching the virus or they have their children at home because they're not in school various different reasons and this is a challenging population that needs support. And it's hard to staff up basically on a dime but it's a very important strategy and places are starting to get better at it. And and jared what about rental assistance have made efforts to formalize rental relief Especially for people who are experiencing homelessness right now. I know that in Orange County Florida at the very sort of at the beginning of the pandemic they had opened up a local rental assistance program. It was so quickly overwhelmed with applicants that they had to shut down within just a few hours basically last week in Dallas. The same thing happened they. They opened up rental assistance program locally that people who had lost income because of the pandemic could apply for rental assistance and more mortgage assistance. And I think that lasted about thirty hours. And they had about ten times more applicants than they were able to actually serve. I live in Philadelphia. And they're opening their own rental assistance program this next week just a couple of days or so. We're going to what's going to happen with that. But a lot of cities are using the money to create rental systems programs. And then just seeing the the demand be much greater than they're ready to to me and what are is doing to keep who are living without permanent shelter safe in this moment besides finding physical shelter for them are they doing anything to provide hygiene or anything else. That's helpful to them in a moment like this. Some jurisdictions are really working with people who are unsheltered. Largely those in encampments not everyone. He's unsheltered lives in an encampment. A lot of people really live individually. You know either inattentive. Or they move around their groups of people living outside There are jurisdictions in California decision elsewhere. Where they're providing hygiene materials porta-pottys doing cleanups and so forth. But really we need to get these unsheltered into shelter at a minimum and eventually into in order to protect their health. People who are unsheltered have are very vulnerable in terms of their health. They're much more disabled and ill than people who are sheltered much less people who are in home so it's really imperative that we deal with Unsheltered homeless people and get them in and I don't think we've made a lot of progress on that to be honest Jared can you speak briefly to the crisis of food insecurity in this moment? And what efforts have been made to connect people with food. Yeah I mean I think that one of the consequences of having congregate shelters be sort of more dangerous places to be now that there's a public health crisis is that people haven't known what to do in terms of communal cooking and a lot of things like that that used to happen in in in those kinds of shelters. I know in Cambridge Massachusetts. The mayor there Instituted a program where the city is basically paying restaurants that have had to shut down because.