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News / Health / Clark County Health

Clark County plans motel rooms for homeless with virus

$1 million from state would help pay for 110 to 130 rooms

By Patty Hastings, Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith
Published: March 27, 2020, 8:44pm

Clark County expects to have 110 to 130 motel rooms ready by mid-April to quarantine and isolate homeless people affected by the novel coronavirus. Money from the state earmarked for providing shelter during the outbreak may run out by the end of June, however.

Vanessa Gaston, director of the community services department, said her staff is still working on contracts with local motels. Daily room rates may cost $50 to $60, though it remains to be seen what services the motel would provide under the contract. Laundry and cleaning, for instance, could be an extra cost.

The state Department of Commerce gave Clark County $1.1 million to put toward sheltering homeless people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We will spend all of that money by June 30,” Gaston said. “We may even be a little over budget.”

Beyond the costs of leasing motel space, there is the cost of staff at each facility, food, transportation and supplies.

Use of the shuttered Telecare treatment and evaluation facility at the Center for Community Health has been put on the back burner, Gaston said. With only one exit to the outside, it posed some challenges in how to keep people safe and maintain social distancing. It was determined to be costlier than motel rooms, which Gaston said are easier to staff and manage.

With motels, people will have their own door to the outside so they don’t have to move through shared spaces to get out of the building. Gaston did not provide the names of the motels since contracts haven’t been solidified.

At least 200 beds is the goal. How many people would live in each room depends on the household size and whether everyone is infected with the virus or just one person. Clark County Public Health has protocol for figuring out who needs to be quarantined or isolated.

The county’s human resources department looks to hire people to work temporarily at these shelters. How many workers depends on the number of facilities. Gaston said people and organizations are already interested in the temporary work, which is a positive sign.

Also, the county is close to finalizing how to get twice daily meals to people living at the motels. Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency is helping figure out transportation for the shelters and locating personal protective equipment.

Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith