The city of Tacoma will use $775,667 in COVID-19 CARES Act funding to help pay for an expanded shelter serving people experiencing homelessness at East 60th Street and McKinley Avenue.

City Council approved an amended contract Tuesday with the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI), which currently operates a 22-unit micro shelter on Hilltop at South 8th Street and Martin Luther King Junior Way.

The agreement increases LIHI’s contract from $388,000 to $1,163,667, including:

  • $328,139 for operations, including village staff, sanitation, insurance, and office supplies.
  • $114,471 for supportive services, including case managers, transportation costs for residents, and Wi-Fi.
  • $333,057 for initial set up of the site, including building materials and transportation of the tiny houses and furniture.

The contract ends on Jan. 1, 2021.

The city of Tacoma announced in May the micro shelter in Hilltop would be moving to a new location to make way for development, leading to some anxiety among the residents that live nearby. The new location allows the shelter to expand from 22 units to 50, with maximum capacity to serve 65 people.

The 26 residents from the Hilltop site will start the transition to the new location at 623 E. 60th Street on Thursday and continue into the following week. The site will be fenced and have 24-hour security. It provides toilets, showers, laundry, garbage services, hand-washing stations, and drinking water for residents.

Staff are taking COVID-19 precautions by requiring masks and social distancing in shared spaces, checking the temperature of staff and clients each time they enter the village and daily cleaning and disinfecting measures, according to LIHI.

Of the $775,667 contract increase, $759,366 will come from federal Housing and Urban Development Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds and CARES Act funding from Pierce County, in addition to $16,301 from the city’s general fund.

Congress passed the CARES Act, a $2.2 trillion economic stimulus bill, in March, with roughly $150 billion dedicated to states and local governments. The amount set aside for Tacoma is $6.3 million. The funds can only be used to cover expenses caused by COVID-19 and were incurred between March 1 and Dec. 30 this year.

Using CARES Act funding will minimize the impact on traditional funding sources, like the general fund, according to the city.

“In order to continue serving individuals experiencing homelessness, the City needs to relocate the existing micro-shelters,” city staff stated in a summary document of the amended contract. “The City must also expand temporary shelter capacity to serve additional individuals under COVID-19 non-congregate shelter directives.”

Staff also pointed to a report by the Washington State Low Income Housing Alliance that “COVID-19 and economic recession threatens significant increases in evictions and homelessness especially among Black and Latinx renter households.”

People wrote to the council in support of using CARES funding for the expanded shelter.

“I believe that it is imperative that money from the CARES ACT be used to support people who are currently on the street and who may be on the street in the near future,” one person wrote for public comment.

Others asked for the council to do more, including making sanctioned tent camping sites or “Safe Parking” lots where people can stay in their vehicles.

“(Our) community needs to create shelter options and alternatives that have a less costly price tag,” wrote another person.



This story originally appeared on The News Tribune By Allison Needles

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