SOUTH BEND — The St. Joseph County Council is set to consider more than $10 million in requests for federal COVID relief money, including another extension for “Motels4Now,” the county- and city-funded program that has been sheltering homeless people in motel rooms since summer 2020.
The council will discuss the motel program and a list of other requests for American Rescue Plan money during its committee meeting Tuesday.
Motels4Now, administered by Our Lady of the Road and Oaklawn, is seeking $1.65 million to run for another year, which supporters hope will provide enough time to figure out an alternative site for a new “low-barrier” intake shelter for homeless people.
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The council reluctantly agreed in September to extend funding through March 2022, with some members raising concerns about paying so much money to the owner of the Knights Inn, the program’s primary site, despite the motel’s poor condition.
The latest request would fund the county’s share of the program through March 2023. The county pays for room fees and staff for Our Lady of the Road, while South Bend pays for mental health and addiction-recovery services for program guests through Oaklawn.
According to documents submitted to the county, the Motels4Now team hopes another year of funding could provide time to identify a site and build a proposed 120-bed facility that would cost between $7.2 million and $8.5 million.
County Auditor Mike Hamann, a supporter of the program, said Motels4Now staff and local government officials are exploring the possibility of building the new shelter on the property of Portage Manor, the county home for adults with disabilities.
“We’re looking for another year of funding while we’re scrambling around,” Hamann said, “and hopefully we can pull something off at Portage Manor.
According to the documents submitted to the council, the Motels4Now team believes the new shelter could be paid for with a combination of tax dollars and donations from the private sector.
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Beyond Motels4Now, the council will be considering several other big-ticket requests for funding through the county’s $53 million share of money from the American Rescue Plan.
More than $3.6 million could go to the United Way of St. Joseph County to help build three community centers being planned for Mishawaka, Walkerton and South Bend’s northwest side. Those “social innovation hubs” will be modeled on a similar United Way project on South Bend’s southeast side and will provide space for child care and a variety of social services. The centers are expected to cost a combined $38 million.
The council will also consider spending as much as $2 million of the money to help Cultivate Food Rescue build new truck docks and upgrade its freezer space to distribute perishable food to area food pantries, soup kitchens and student meal programs.
Another proposal would send $1 million to the South Bend Center for the Homeless, to be used for renovations that would allow the center to serve 200 guests per night while improving social-distancing capabilities.
The council is set to vote on the proposals at its Feb. 15 meeting.
This article originally appeared on South Bend Tribune: St. Joseph County Council to discuss $10 million in COVID spending