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Baltimore extends emergency contracts with hotels to house homeless through September

Baltimore will continue housing about 500 homeless residents in hotel rooms through September, extending its emergency contracts while the city explores purchasing a hotel to house people long-term.

Tisha Edwards, the acting director of the Mayor’s Office of Homeless Services, confirmed that her office made the decision earlier this month to extends its contracts with local hotels through Sept. 30 rather than let them expire at the end of June.

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The city has housed hundreds of the city’s homeless residents since last year to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, paying for it through the city’s general fund as it prepared to request millions in reimbursement funding available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Public Assistance Program.

Homeless advocacy organizations had previously called on the city to extend the contracts through September as an analysis of FEMA’s reimbursement program by the National Homeless Law Center found that the program is offering to reimburse municipalities 100% of all costs to provide non-congregate housing to homeless residents through September.

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In recent weeks, the state has seen the spread of COVID-19 decline significantly and now more than 67% of adult Marylanders have received at least one shot of a vaccine. As of Thursday, Baltimore City’s seven-day average positivity rate was at 1.87% and about 34.53% of the city’s population has been fully vaccinated.

However, the city has also been exploring using hotels as a long-term solution to housing the city’s homeless residents, putting out a Request for Information solicitation for sites with 100 to 200 bedrooms in April.

Baltimore officials are also mulling over how to spend $670 million the city is scheduled to receive from the American Rescue Plan, Democratic President Joe Biden’s economic relief effort. Some advocacy organization leaders have said some of the funding should go toward creating alternative housing options for the city’s homeless rather than reopen congregate shelters.

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