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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.

Homelessness Not Increasing, But More People Are Without Shelter

Jason Whitman
An unidentified person sleeps on the Serpentine Wall at Sawyer Point.

Hamilton County is seeing more people sleeping in public places recently, and the president of Strategies to End Homelessness says there could be even more in 2021.

Kevin Finn says it's not that there are more people experiencing homelessness. It's that the local system is still disrupted by the pandemic, and the intake process for shelters has been interrupted. Local homeless shelters closed because they couldn't provide social distancing indoors. Four of the six are still housing people in motel rooms. "Even though the CARES Act was passed at the end of March, or beginning of April, much of the funding that was approved has actually to show up."

He says Cincinnati and Hamilton County are slated to receive about $10.5 million for homeless services, but it hasn't arrived.

Finn says the United Way and Greater Cincinnati Foundation provided money for motel rooms for the first few weeks of the pandemic. Then Hamilton County picked up the bill.

Finn says that funding is necessary, and there needs to be money for improvements in existing shelters. "So that people can sleep with an appropriate social distance or with some sort of barrier between them and the person in the next bed. Those sorts of things," he says.

Finn says without the federal funding, that can't be done.

With moratoriums on evictions ending, Finn says next year could be troubling. "It typically takes a person a year to a year and a half to go from being evicted from their own housing to being literally homeless, on the street or in a shelter. Homelessness is what's called a lagging indicator."

Finn says people typically spend those months staying with relatives or friends. He says the federal money allocated for shelters will be gone by the time the eviction wave hits. "Hamilton County received $142 million from the CARES Act. Those dollars have to be expended by the end of December."

Finn says getting promised federal funds sooner rather than later would help a lot.

Hamilton County commissioners are expected to vote on providing more money for motel stays for homeless people at Thursday's meeting.