CARES Act funding helps the homeless in the Historic Triangle. Here’s how

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(WYDaily file/Courtesy of Unsplash)
(WYDaily file/Courtesy of Unsplash)

The Housing Unit in the James City County’s Social Services department was awarded funding through the CARES Act to help those who are experiencing homelessness find emergency shelter during the coronavirus pandemic.

James City County Board of Supervisors recently approved two grant awards for the homeless emergency response program.

The first grant is $129,630 and is broken down into:

  • $62,390 for direct services
  • $3,146 for program administration
  • $64,094 for staffing a Housing Outreach Stabilization Specialist in the Upper Peninsula

Those funds can be used as a “second goal.”

“The second goal of the COVID Homelessness Emergency Response Program is to help households maintain or obtain permanent housing and receive housing-focused supportive services necessary to retain permanent housing,” according to the memorandum.

The Housing Outreach Stabilization Specialist would be a full-time and “limited term” position, with the task of administering rapid re-housing during the pandemic.

Keith Denny, housing manager for the county, said the funding is supposed to provide shelter to anyone who experiencing homelessness in James City County, Williamsburg and York County from the day the grants were approved by the Board of Supervisors.

Denny said the housing outreach specialist will meet with the homeless individuals and connect them to resources and permanent housing. The second part of the grant amount is for rapid rehousing costs, paying for the people who are put in “emergency shelters” at the hotels, and expires on Sept 20, 2022.

The second grant is $90,141 and is for a “non-congregate, winter shelter” through the COVID-9 Homeless Emergency Response Program. The grant expires Dec. 30.

“In an effort to continue responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Department of Housing and Community Development has made COVID Homelessness Emergency Response Program (CHERP) funds available for Emergency Shelter Operations,” according to a memo from Rebecca Vinroot, the county’s director of social services. “As a designated subgrantee, Housing has received an allocation of $90,141 from these funds for non-congregate, winter shelter.”

The social services housing unit is a partner of the Greater Virginia Peninsula Homelessness Consortium which provides “emergency shelter, homelessness prevention, rapid re-housing, and associated services” in James City County, Williamsburg, and upper York County, according to the memo.

Vinroot wrote to the Board of Supervisors that the staff recommended the board accept the CHERP funds, noting the county’s social services department is considered a “subgrantee of funding awarded through the GVPHC to the City of Hampton.”

The county is not required to match either of the grant funds.

The CHERP funding requires the localities to “ensure all individuals and households experiencing homelessness have access to safe, 24-7, emergency shelter during this health pandemic,” according to the resolution.

Denny said the goal of both the grants, which is through the CARES Act, is to transition those who are experiencing homelessness to permanent housing.

“The whole idea there is, once we have them in a hotel, that benefits them,” Denny said, adding social services can then meet with them and work to transition them to permanent housing.

But the 24/7 emergency shelter mentioned in the grant documents is not one place. In fact, it’s actually four hotels.

Denny said the grant funds will provide those who are homeless shelter in these hotels but the individuals and families must identify as “literally homeless” which covers those who are sleeping in their cars, but not someone who was kicked out of the house by their spouse.

The housing unit of the county’s social services department had 37 residents ––individuals and families––in March and Denny said they were able to “divert” 17 of them back to their families or to rental housing.

There are currently 10 individuals in the hotels at the moment.

When asked which hotels in the Historic Triangle were providing the emergency shelter to the localities’ homeless population, Denny could not elaborate.

“Unfortunately, the additional information you have requested about the name of the hotels being used to shelter homeless citizens cannot be provided due to privacy concerns,” he wrote in an email.

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