Hotel rooms

Proposed Health Order Directs Douglas County to Provide Hotel Rooms or Other Offsite Quarantine Locations for Homeless Shelters, Other Congregate Dwellings | News, Sports, Jobs


picture by: Mike Yoder

The Lawrence Community Shelter, 3655 E. 25th St., is pictured in this 2015 file photo.

Douglas County leaders will soon consider a health ordinance that directs the county to provide funding and resources to support offsite quarantine locations for congregate living settings such as homeless shelters.

As part of its Wednesday meeting, the Douglas County Commission will consider an emergency public health order to provide non-congregate shelter options such as dormitories, hotels and motels to shelters and other similar agencies for limit the spread of COVID-19.

In a memo to the commission, Director of Emergency Management Robert Bieniecki says that in recent weeks, community agencies serving the homeless and those in insecure housing have had to provide isolation housing. temporary to those who have tested positive for COVID-19. Bieniecki says social distancing measures at these agencies have significantly limited the ability to provide adequate spaces at these establishments that do not endanger staff, other customers and the wider community.

As the Journal-World recently reported, Lawrence Community Shelter executives announced plans earlier this year to increase capacity at the main building in east Lawrence, but later changed those plans after an increase in COVID cases due to the more contagious Delta variant. Specifically, leaders said the shelter’s capacity will remain at 40 people so that the shelter has room to quarantine and isolate those exposed to the virus or who test positive.

The shelter has the capacity to serve 125 people most of the time and 140 people during the winter. It originally reduced its capacity to 65 people in August 2019 due to budget issues and changes to its staffing model following an outside review commissioned by the city and county. Then it further reduced the number of people housed in its main building to a maximum of 40 amid the coronavirus pandemic. The shelter received federal coronavirus relief funding to help operate a temporary hotel shelter program earlier in the pandemic, which allowed it to serve additional guests beyond those permitted at its facility, but this program ended on April 1.

Bieniecki says in the memo that based on consultation with the Housing and Human Services branch of the United Command — a group of health and government officials working to combat the pandemic — and advice from the Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health, the most feasible solution for isolation in the future is to temporarily house guests in hotel rooms for the designated period of time.

The proposed health order states in part that Douglas County will support non-congregate housing options for community members who are homeless, members of treatment programs, or those who live, work, or are exposed to places congregation, and members of their household. This does not include those incarcerated at Douglas County Jail.

County support would include funding to pay for space in college dorms and hotel and motel facilities. This would also include shelter management and support to non-collective sites, including feeding operations, laundry and cleaning, as well as coordinating the wider system of quarantine and isolation procedures.

If the commission approves the proposed order, county spokeswoman Karrey Britt said the Douglas County government would provide the financial and other support outlined in the order using funds from the Federal Management Agency. Emergencies (FEMA) or the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) if possible. The order would take effect at 12:01 a.m. on September 9 and would remain in effect unless rescinded or changed by the health officer or county commission.

The County Commission will meet at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the County Courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St. Residents can participate in the meeting in person, virtually, or by phone, and more information about these options is available at douglascountyks.org/ committee/meetings .