South Burlington Holiday Inn set up as Covid-19 recovery site for homeless

Published: 4/12/2020 8:53:09 PM
Modified: 4/12/2020 8:53:07 PM

SOUTH BURLINGTON — The Holiday Inn in South Burlington will serve as a recovery site for individuals in vulnerable populations who contract the coronavirus, Mayor Miro Weinberger announced Friday. Weinberger said the state had communicated that the site will be operational this week.

The city and state set up 27 campers at North Beach to house homeless individuals during the crisis as public health officials encourage social distancing to limit the spread of the virus. The site was imminently approaching full capacity Friday, Heather Bush, the shelter coordinator for ANEW Place, said during Weinberger’s update.

The congregate sites are part of the state’s coronavirus response for those living in shelters who have the disease but do not require hospitalization.

“This is a facility that needs to be created for us to have confidence that people who test positive for Covid-19 but are not sick enough that they need to be hospitalized, that there is a place for them to go … to get the proper support, and for them to be able to isolate themselves properly so they don’t put others at risk,” Weinberger said.

He said that outbreaks of the disease at Burlington nursing homes Burlington Health & Rehab and Birchwood Terrace reflect the need for the congregate care site, as the disease can spread quickly among those living in close proximity to each other.

“Once a virus gets into one of these facilities, it can really end up impacting a lot of people,” Weinberger said.

The city worked with the state to set up campers at North Beach for homeless individuals late last month to provide shelter for those residing at the low barrier shelter. ANEW Place, the nonprofit that runs that facility, also is running the facility at North Beach.

Bush said ANEW Place expected to hit capacity at the site Friday evening. Kevin Pounds, the executive director of ANEW Place, said the number of campers on site were determined by the number of on-site water and sewage hook-ups at North Beach.

Weinberger said that he asked city staff to reach out to the state to determine alternatives for those who would benefit from a camper now that they have reached capacity at North Beach.

The state is currently housing 350 people in its hotel and motel voucher program for homeless individuals in the area, Weinberger said.

“The state has been excellent in providing these hotel/motel vouchers and that is significantly expandable,” he said.

The city is also aiming to expand available services for homeless individuals after the pandemic, Weinberger said. The low barrier shelter in the city operates during the winter but closes during the summer.

Weinberger said that the city was working to find a way to continue to offer low-barrier shelter to the homeless past May 15, which is the current end date of Governor Phil Scott’s “stay at home” order.

“We can’t go back to the system we had before where basically people were on their own if they didn’t qualify for our other shelters,” he said.

The low-barrier shelter does not have a sobriety requirement, setting it apart from other shelters.

At Friday’s press briefing, Weinberger also announced that 67 businesses would be receiving funding from the city as part of its small business grant program that re-purposed federal funds to aid businesses through the pandemic.

Businesses need to meet eligibility requirements for employing low- and moderate- income employees. The funds can be used to cover business expenses, like rent, utilities and operations. Forty-seven businesses received $1,500 while 20 received $2,000 for having more than five employees.

Weinberger also announced that the city is expanding its outreach to New Americans during the pandemic. He said the city knew it had to build out its communication to New Americans to make sure its response to the pandemic was equitable.

“We have a better chance of making sure that everyone gets the help they need and deserve if we are communicating better with these New American communities,” he said.

The city will identify one “community voice” in the Nepalese, Somalian, Swahili, Congolese and Karen communities to ensure a two-way exchange of information, Weinberger said. The individuals will receive a stipend of $5,000 for their efforts.

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