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Catalyst Rescue Mission will be removing tents and housing new intakes at a motel for seven days to monitor them for COVID-19 symptoms before they can enter the facility.

JEFFERSONVILLE — Leadership at Jeffersonville homeless shelter Catalyst Rescue Mission is seeking assistance from local municipalities to help with operation costs after they say changes in plans for an expected state grant to respond to COVID-19 may not go as far as expected.

Right now, the shelter is awaiting the first installment of a $729,000 grant from the Family and Social Services Administration Division of Mental Health and Addiction, to cover sheltering and quarantining of people from 12 surrounding counties, although {span}Catalyst President Jim Moon{/span} said 90% of those at the shelter are from Clark, Floyd and Harrison counties. The funding would go toward monies already spent on the response, and will be administered through the Clark County Health Department.

But, Moon said, he fears the money will not last as long after changes to the original plan based on pushback to the operations they had in place, and has begun looking for funding to bolster operations.

He secured $10,000 from the Jeffersonville City Council after a unanimous vote just over a week ago to assist in relocating those in the tents, following $50,000 pledged by the council at the start of the year to aid in operations. The New Albany City Council is expected to vote on a $50,000 request at a third reading Thursday. Moon will also be approaching other local municipalities for requests with the funding to go toward the response in helping homeless from those areas.

Since mid-March, new people coming to the shelter have been required to stay in large tents on the property, monitored for symptoms of the virus for seven days before they could come inside the facility. One tent was for men, one for women and a quarantine tent for anyone who tested positive but didn’t require hospitalization. Moon said he was approached by the Division of Mental Health and Addiction and urged to apply for the grant when they learned of this.

“Thirty-three percent of cases are asymptomatic so if you keep them for seven days, you basically can cut it off at the front end to keep it from coming in the front door,” Moon said.

But starting Tuesday, the seven people who were new-stays in the tent and any other new walk-ups, will be placed in a local motel paid for by the shelter at $65 per night. The empty tents will be removed once the rain lets up enough for them to dry, Moon said. They have averaged 11 to 14 people a day in the tents and 70 to 80 inside the building. No one there had tested positive for the virus as of Monday.

This change — housing all new residents in the motel for seven days instead of tents — comes after some residents of the surrounding neighborhood as well as city administration voiced concerns about the safety and legality of the structures.

After some community members spoke out about their fears of having potential positive people in tents in their neighborhood, the quarantine tent was removed. At a subsequent Jeffersonville City Council meeting, Council Member Dustin White reiterated the sentiment on whether it was safe to have anyone at all in the tents, and the city attorney questioned the legality under city code and said they must come down.

Moon said he’s worried the motel stays could end up costing much more than the tents, and eat into part of the grant he’s planned for case management — to help get people into housing by paying first month’s rent and deposit and helping with utilities. Plus, with no funding yet in hand, everything that’s been spent the past two months on the response has come out of the shelter’s budget.

For the new staff needed to work the round-the-clock shifts in the separate tent area, the cost is $55,350 per month, Moon said. The largest tent is $3,000 per month, the smaller two tents — including the quarantine tent that has been taken down — are $820 per month. They also paid for heating and air-conditioning and security cameras around.

Moon said even when the new residents go to the motel, those extra staff will still be needed. The shelter will be charged $165 to clean a room if a person who is positive with the virus stays there, and $199 if it needs to be treated for bedbugs. Moon said he fears not knowing how many rooms could even be needed.

“I’m concerned that the amount of money we had budgeted to spend in the hotel motel is going to balloon to a number that we don’t even know what it could be,” he said. “It’s going to be based on the number of intakes we have in a day who are normally emergency shelter people.

“I’m concerned that we’re going to blow the budget on case management on the backside, I’m concerned that we’re going to blow through some of the money we have set aside to help people get into affordable housing, I’m concerned that the funding for the shelter staff may have to be spent in relation to putting people in hotel/motels.”

When they were first erected, Clark County Health Officer Dr. Eric Yazel had initially sent a letter to the planning department recommending that the tents be able to be placed there. On May 4, he issued an order that would prevent them from being taken down for 14 days; that order was set to expire at 7 p.m. Monday.

“My whole goal in this is to make sure everybody stays safe,” Yazel said. “The [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] gold standard is to put the homeless population into rooms that have privacy. [The tents were] the best options we had at the time.”

But he added that with the grant and aid already approved from the Jeffersonville City Council, he feels it will be adequate to provide that level of care while also striking a balance between the city, the shelter, safety of the shelter residents and the concerns of the surrounding community.