The homeless in Washington County who are dealing with COVID-19 could see more assistance coming their way.
Brooke Grossman, chief mission officer for Horizon Goodwill, met with the county commissioners Tuesday morning to request $10,000 from the county's share of the American Rescue Plan Act to help with the costs of quarantining COVID positive homeless people.
Grossman, who also is the chair of the county's homeless coalition, said that as the COVID-19 positivity rate increases in the county, "we're obviously going to see an increase in number of individuals that are either in congregate care or unsheltered that are testing positive" with a need to quarantine safely.
According to a state report, a total of 249 individuals experienced homelessness in 2019. The positivity rate for COVID-19 in Washington County was 24.6% as of Monday night. In the past two weeks, Washington County has reported over 3,000 new cases.
Grossman said that in previous years, there were COVID relief funds available through the Washington County Health Department to help place "those folks into shelter." She said that resource is not available now.
She added that the Cold Weather Shelter is able to quarantine individuals that were with them prior to contracting COVID-19, but those that are unsheltered, in other shelter environments or newly homeless, will need assistance.
The Cold Weather Shelter, managed by Reach of Washington County, is open from the last Sunday of October to the first Sunday of April. It provides temporary shelter for homeless adults over age 18.
Horizon Goodwill would act as point of contact for individuals seeking shelter, the hospital emergency command and the health department. It would confirm the need and length for quarantine.
Horizon Goodwill would also act as the bridge between the health department and social services for the individual, in case they will need medication and food.
The individual would also get back to a shelter once they're done quarantining.
Before the vote, there were some concerns about the request and using American Rescue Plan Act funds. The commissioners discussed on the possibility of finding funds elsewhere before using any funds from ARPA.
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Terry Baker, vice president of the county commissioners, said that there needed to be a conversation about how to spread the funding for more projects.
Commissioner Charlie Burkett asked whether or not Grossman would be ok with $5,000 and then Horizon Goodwill would ask for more should they need it.
Horizon Goodwill originally went to Hagerstown City Council last week with a $5,000 request but was advised by city council to ask for the $10,000.
"I would really hate to find ourselves in a position where we depleted resources and had to wait to come back to a meeting," Grossman said.
Washington County was allotted a total of $29.3 million in funding from ARPA, which is disbursed in two installments. The county has already received $14.7 million and expects to see the final payment in June.
The motion for the request was approved 4-0. Commissioner Wayne Keefer was absent due to a family medical emergency, which was non-COVID related.
"Homeless need to be housed and treated with compassion," Commissioner Randy Wagner said.
Wagner said he just wanted for Horizon Goodwill to update the commissioners on how it uses the money.
"$10,000 dollars doesn't seem like a whole lot of money," Baker added. "And I have a lot of respect for Horizon Goodwill."
Horizon Goodwill Industries was founded in after 1902, when Rev. Edgar J. Helms created Goodwill in Boston's South End. A group of Hagerstown businessmen — Richard Grumbacher, Max Greenwald, D.E. Stultz, J. H. Bayliss, Harold Porter, and David W. Byron were instrumental to opening Goodwill's 100th location in the U.S in 1955.
Harvey Kettering assumed the role of CEO and opened up stores in Hagerstown, Hancock, Cumberland, Waynesboro and Martinsburg.
This article originally appeared on The Herald-Mail: Homeless receive more assistance for COVID-19 quarantining