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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

Hamilton County To Provide $1M To Help Shelter The Homeless During Crisis

third street homeless camp
Bill Rinehart
A former homeless camp on Third Street in Dowtown Cincinnati.

Hamilton County commissioners are expected to vote this week on funding meant to reduce the number of people living in homeless shelters during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Commission President Denise Driehaus said they'll provide $1.1 million to Strategies to End Homelessness.

"For shelters to place high-risk individuals and families in hotels, and again to achieve this safe distancing that we need in the shelters," Driehaus said. "This will reduce the population in the shelters and allow for better distancing inside the shelter, as well as provide a safe place for the high-risk individuals to ride out the stay-at-home order."

Strategies to End Homelessness President Kevin Finn said many of the shelters for homeless families have already be emptied.

"What the family shelters decided was best for them to do is empty their congregate facilities and provide each family with a motel room where they could have a separate and distinct space for their family," Finn said. "So that action has been taken over the last couple weeks."

Finn said there are some shelters for families that are set up like apartments, and those families have not been relocated.

About two-thirds of Hamilton County's homeless population is single, and Finn said those shelters are operating as usual with some exceptions.

"What the single shelters have largely done is moved to de-concentrate their facilities so that they could achieve appropriate social distancing," Finn said. "They have been very strategic in targeting people who are elderly, sick, who would be most likely to become severely ill if they contracted the virus; and those are the people that they have determined to move out of their shelters and into hotel/motel rooms."

Right now. about 330 hotel/motel rooms are being used to shelter homeless families and individuals.

Finn said there have been no reported COVID-19 cases in Hamilton County homeless shelters. Some individuals have been isolated at the Over-the-Rhine Recreation Center while they awaited test results.

The county's $1.1 million is expected to help provide 45 additional hotel/motel room nights.

Jay Hanselman brings more than 10 years experience as a news anchor and reporter to 91.7 WVXU. He came to WVXU from WNKU, where he hosted the local broadcast of All Things Considered. Hanselman has been recognized for his reporting by the Kentucky AP Broadcasters Association, the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and the Ohio AP Broadcasters.