Sena Vega, United States, New Orleans discussed on The Takeaway

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Should be the best see you in for ten Sena Vega who still on maternity leave it's good to have you here with us on the take away the covert 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 a 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 open 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 that cities are implementing including moving people who are experiencing homelessness into hotels are largely temporary so what happens when the covert 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 Brady is with us also he is a freelance reporter in Philadelphia and housing correspondent for the nonprofit news organization next city Hey man he Jared hello thanks for having me Hey Derek can you start by giving us an overview of the scope of covert nineteenth effect on people who are experiencing homelessness nationwide and where we've seen the most significant impact well these folks are among the most vulnerable in 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 the stay at home it's okay we don't have homes that's clearly impossible and you know things like new York experienced the greatest outbreaks so I think that the folks who are on the house there are are seeing the some of the worst tuba city all over are trying to figure out how to deal with housing people who have been house for a long time and are now at a at a much greater risk of harm now and 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 kinds of federal action have we seen so far well there's been considerable investment in helping our communities to address homelessness during them at the pandemic so Congress provided four billion dollars in emergency solutions grant funding which is a flexible kind of fat 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 two fold to get people into spaces that can form with the CDC guidance so that they have enough distance between each other and their quarantine or isolate if they need to be and then also to address or what's going to happen during the economic recovery and those ESG resources will help with that there's also other federal money that relief find 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 did an 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 system to conform to CDC guidance around these issues and they estimated it would cost eleven point five billion dollars to do so that we got four billion of that we still are going to need additional resources and that isn't really even moving people along into housing that's really just to reconfigure the current system Jerod we've been speaking on the 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 at like you mentioned trying to leave most of these that I've that I've heard about trying to find hotel rooms to individually house homeless people who either have been infected or at least expose to the to the virus to a certain degree there's also sort of questions around how to shelter people in an emergency ways that don't involve you know sort of concrete shelters I think that well a lot of the typical home shelters we think of people are pretty close together and don't have a lot of personal space and that's really become a problem during the pandemic in Sims is going a lot of other cities in California local governments county governments and state government to a certain degree was trying to lease hotel rooms for this purpose and a couple have talked about so currently acquiring hotels I know Missoula Montana recently just purchased a motel downtown that it's gonna use for emergency housing for people who've been exposed or infected and then once the emergency is lifted hopefully what if they were to do that realist it lifted that they're going to plan to rid of redeveloping properties permanent affordable housing so they try to keep to kill two birds with one stone we just did some work in the house in question and a 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 and motel strategy one concern we have is that very few unsheltered people are being brought into a shelter most of the people that are moving into the hotels and motels seem to be coming out of shelters they're trying to get in 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 become ill or because they're concerned about catching the virus or they have their children 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 I think places are starting to get better at and injured what about rental assistance have any cities made efforts to formalise rental relief especially for people who are experiencing homelessness right now yeah quite a few I know that in Orange County Florida that but at the very sort of at the beginning of the pandemic they had opened up a local rental assistance program and it was so quickly overwhelmed with applicants that they had to shut down this and you know it's just a few a few hours basically last week in Dallas the same thing happened they they opened up a rental assistance program locally that people who had lost income because of the pandemic could apply for rental assistance and more in mortgage assistance and I think that lasted about thirty hours and they had about ten times more applicants and they were able to actually serve I live in Philadelphia and they're opening their own T. H. O. rental assistance program this next week just a couple days here so we're going to have this gonna happen with that but a lot of cities are using some of the cares act money to create rental assistance programs and then just seeing the the demand to be much greater than they are ready to to meet and then what our city is doing to keep people who are living without permanent shelter safe in this moment besides finding physical shelter for them are they doing anything to provide hygiene or 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 encampments and not everyone who's unsheltered lives in an encampment a lot of people really live individually you know either in a tent or they move around but where they are groups of people living outside there are jurisdictions in California DC and elsewhere where they're providing hygiene materials Porta potties doing clean ups and so forth but really we need to get these unsheltered people into shelter at a minimum and eventually into to housing in order to protect their health people who are unsheltered halves are very vulnerable in terms of their health care much more disabled and ill than people who are sheltered much less people who are in homes 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 access to food yeah I mean I think that one of the consequences of having come get 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 a lot of things like that that that used to happen and and and those kind 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 of the state homeowners to create to make to make meals for some local homeless shelters and if you know and they had a range restaurant has been that and are sort of pretty meals that can then be passed out and in a safe manner to to to folks who are using the shelters some of the cities of done similar things that are their projections for how many more Americans could become homeless as a result of this pandemic I have not seen any projections on how many people are likely to become homeless I would say first that because of the additional resources federal resources at least we do have a chance I think if we're still for strategic to move a lot of people who are currently homeless into housing but I have a lot of fears about what's going to happen as the country opens up again many people now are living under rent forbearance programs they don't have to pay the rent at the moment but when all of this ends they're gonna still those a rear reaches these are many of the same people who haven't been able to work or only work sporadically they're not going to have three months worth of backgrounds they don't have assets or they would have been paying the rent already we also have a lot of the eviction moratoriums around the country and in certain kinds of housing that prevents people who can't pay their rent from being evicted but those will also go away and so I think we're gonna have a lot of people who rent and are able to be evicted and are affected and I'm concerned that we need to plan better about what's gonna happen to them we the alliance and many other groups have come together to request a hundred billion dollars in the next ten miles's bill for rental assistance in great part to prevent replacing the existing group of homeless people with a just a new group that comes out of this pandemic in and as we're seeing different cities reacting to the needs of unsheltered people during this pandemic do you believe that any of these temporary solutions give way to long term solutions yes I do think so and I think we have resources to move in that.

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