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Funds secured to extend Hotels for Health program for another week

A FEMA spokesperson says Trillium, the crisis agency that runs the homeless housing program, was deemed ineligible because it did not have the “legal responsibility” to provide shelter for the homeless.
Published: Aug. 25, 2020 at 8:44 PM EDT
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JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Over 140 homeless North Carolinians can rest their heads easy tonight as they’re guaranteed a safe place to stay, at least for the next week.

The Hotels for Health program was established by Gov. Cooper’s COVID-19 Recovery Act. It provides motel rooms for the homeless while shelters are closed because of the pandemic.

The program was denied federal funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, last week. The people using the program in 26 North Carolina counties were told Friday they had until Tuesday morning at 11 to move out.

Just before then, WITN News confirmed from a senior employee at Trillium, the crisis agency that runs the program, that enough funds were secured by the Department of Health and Human Services to guarantee those on the program a place to stay until at least Tuesday morning.

“It’s not just me, it’s anybody else that’s out here like us,” said Tina Baysden, one of the people who use the program. “They’ve got kids, family, senior citizens, you name it. We need help.”

That extension buys people like Baysden and Meagan Westbrook enough time to find a new plan, if necessary.

“To have to tell your children that ‘I’m sorry mommy can’t take you today. Mommy can’t do your schoolwork with you today because I don’t have anywhere for you to go,’” said Westbrook, a mother of three, including a nine-month-old girl. “It’s really demeaning as a mother. To not be able to provide for your child. And I’m not I don’t want this to get confused as we’re all just counting on the government we’re all just sitting on government funds not wanting to do anything. We were promised housing. We are working.”

Baysden and Westbrook are two of hundreds of families in Eastern North Carolina that lost their homes to Hurricane Florence, and are still recovering.

“Probably 30 people right now in Jones County. Just guessing,” said Jones County Emergency Services Director Tim Pike. “I wish I knew how many we did have ya know that were reasonably flooded. But I don’t. I don’t know just cause a lot of them didn’t report it.”

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