The city of Baltimore extended its contract with five hotels in the city to house people experiencing homelessness for another three months, The Baltimore Sun reported.
Deputy city administrative officer Daniel Ramos said the city will pay for the cost of the hotels through the end of March after federal CARES Act funding expired at midnight on Thursday. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will reimburse 75 percent of the cost, which will come from the city’s general fund, according to the newspaper.
The city previously said in October that it would have two emergency shelters prepared to house people amid the coronavirus pandemic by Jan. 1 before federal funding expired. However, Tisha Edwards, acting director of the Office of Homeless Services, said additional time was needed to assure the shelters met Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) standards.
“Until we’re comfortable we can meet the CDC guidelines ... we’re going to need to maintain our hotel contracts,” she said, according to the newspaper.
CDC guidance says any congregate living settings should include physical barriers to separate desk staff from the public, as well as measures in communal areas to allow for social distancing. Edwards said this has proven particularly challenging in the case of the Pinderhughes Emergency Homeless Shelter, a former school building with the capacity to house 78 people.
“It’s really getting agreement on the scope. This is an evolving process. We want to do it right,” she said. “It’s a pretty extensive undertaking to covert a school into a CDC-compliant shelter.”
Edwards said the city has moved 254 families from sheltering facilities into more long-term housing since the pandemic began, and that the ultimate goal is to place 150 more who are too high-risk for a congregate setting.
“The housing component is really what our neighbors want and what we want for them,” she said.
--Updated on Jan. 4 at 10:10 a.m.