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FEMA turns down homeless housing funding, leaving nearly 150 people nowhere to go

Nearly 150 people in 26 counties in North Carolina take part in the Hotels for Health program.
Published: Aug. 24, 2020 at 7:20 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 24, 2020 at 10:41 PM EDT
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JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Nearly 150 people who are homeless in North Carolina are back on the streets Tuesday morning.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency denied a request made by Trillium, a crisis management agency, to fund its Hotels for Health program. It was created under Gov. Cooper’s COVID-19 Recovery Act to provide the homeless with temporary housing while shelters are closed.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Alyssa Slater, who lost her home in Hurricane Florence. “We’re all just going to be just out here with nowhere to go in these elements.”

Slater and her two-year-old daughter have been couch-surfing ever since her home was destroyed in the storm. But after the pandemic hit in March, she benefited from the Hotels for Health program. Friday, she got a text from her caseworker informing her she and her daughter have to be out of their hotel by checkout Tuesday morning.

“This funding that’s getting taken away, it’s killing us,” said Slater.

Now, Slater doesn’t know what comes next.

“My heart is broken that this is what it’s come to,” said Trillium Clinical Operations Vice President Christie Edwards. “But, everyone who entered this knew that it was a grant program, and that it was time-limited.”

According to Edwards, FEMA denied the application because it deemed Trillium as an ineligible agency. Edwards said the agency did not provide an explanation as to why.

WITN News contacted a FEMA spokesperson. One returned a call, but said they would work to provide an explanation at a later time.

Until then, Trillium will have to foot the bill on the costs of the motel, and is working to provide additional funding in the meantime. Edwards also said they are working with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to provide additional funding for hotel housing.

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