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Baltimore exploring purchasing hotels to house city’s homeless residents, mayor says

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said the city is exploring a potential purchase of hotels to use as more permanent housing for the city’s homeless residents.

The city has posted a Request for Information solicitation for sites with 100 to 200 bedrooms. In a news release, the mayor’s office wrote that the goal “is to have multiple hotels under the ownership and management of the City that are capable of providing safe, high-quality shelter to people and families experiencing homelessness.”

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The city has been housing hundreds of the city’s homeless residents in hotels during the coronavirus pandemic, recently extending lease agreements with several hotels to continue the arrangement through June while paying for the cost of doing so through Baltimore’s general fund.

A number of advocacy organizations have called on the city to explore alternatives to reopening city shelters by tapping into the estimated $670 million Baltimore is set to receive from the federal COVID-19 relief package passed by Congress. Advocates say officials should use a portion of the funds to purchase or create non-congregate facilities, such as hotels, apartments or homes.

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In the release, Scott said the Request for Information “seeks information on properties currently operating as hotels with 100-200 bedrooms, on-site laundry facilities, accessible entrances and elevator (if multiple floors), and kitchen facilities.” Scott added that the properties, if purchased, could then be converted “to permanent and transient housing” that would work in line with the plans of the Mayor’s Office of Homeless Services.

“Providing non-congregate shelter in hotels has helped to mitigate the spread of COVID and is proof of how hotels can transform the shelter system,” said Tisha S. Edwards, the office’s acting director. “We are also very eager to utilize hotels as a resource to increase the City’s access to housing for our neighbors experiencing homelessness.”

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