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CARES ACT funding to potentially help South Bend homeless

Published: Aug. 20, 2020 at 5:27 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - County leaders met to discuss ways they can work together to help address the homelessness issue in South Bend.

The St. Joseph County Auditor’s Office, the health department, and others want to possibly use a portion of the CARES ACT grant.

One of the eligible uses of CARES ACT funding is “for expenses for care for homeless populations provided to mitigate COVID-19 effects.”

For several months the homeless have been setting up camp at various locations in South Bend after the weather amnesty building closed.

The conditions have been unsafe and filthy.

Thanks to an anonymous donation, many are now living in motels.

“The short-term solutions are not long-term fixes. Hotel rooms are a stop-gap measure that the community has stepped up and provided,” said South Bend Mayor James Mueller.

The county, however, would like to help fund motel stays, and eventually work to find low-barrier housing and a long-term solution to fighting homelessness.

For months, residents, pastors, some South Bend Common Council members and the Monroe Park Neighborhood Association have been asking Mueller to do something.

“We’ve had multiple conversations with service providers. For example, could we extend the weather amnesty program beyond just the cold weather months, and that’s something our partners have not been keen to do,” Mueller said.

In a statement, Mueller’s Administration said in part, “The City has available federal grant funding to assist with the issue, but those dollars do carry restrictions on how they can be spent.”

“If you’ve got that money and it’s intended to help in this situation, then it’s unconscionable that we don’t step up and try to do something and again, my position is this, that you see what the need is and you figure out a way to make it work. You try to get to yes. You do whatever you can. A lot of people can sit back and say, well, we can’t do this or my hands are tied...nonsense...if there’s a will, there’s a way and we are going to try and find a way in St. Joe County to help these folks,” said St. Joseph County Auditor Mike Hamann.

“The City is not meant to be in the business of homeless service provision,” said Mueller.

“They are a vulnerable population. They have dignity as human beings, and we want to help them; and at the same time, in doing so, we want to make sure we do all we can to prevent the spread of COVID. So the county is there. We are standing by and willing to be partners in this with whoever will work with us,” Hamann said.

County leaders will meet again next week to start putting a plan in place.

Additionally, Dr. Mark Fox with the St. Joseph County Health Department says a total of 19 test results came back for homeless individuals who set up camp at the old BMV, and all the tests were negative.

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