Lewis County Approves $220,000 in Funding to Shelter Homeless and Potential COVID-19 Patients

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The Lewis County Board of Commissioners approved two memorandums of understanding Tuesday intended to fund shelter for homeless COVID-19 patients. 

The first agreed to pay $120,000 to the Salvation Army to operate the emergency COVID-19 shelter at the Southwest Washington Fairgrounds, designated to house people experiencing homelessness or who are unable to quarantine in their homes. 

The funding covers the time between April 13 and June 15, and comes from COVID-19 relief funds distributed by the state Department of Commerce.

“That provides for the emergency shelter for people who are homeless and cannot safely isolate during this time for the day center and also for the second facility for people to be positive in COVID, which we don’t have anyone in right now,” said J.P. Anderson, director of Lewis County Public Health and Social Services. 

It is not clear if the center will remain open beyond June. 

“There may be some other conversations around the second half of this year should we continue to need this,” Anderson said. 

The commission also approved a second memorandum of understanding with the Housing Resource Center of Lewis County to pay $100,000 in funding from the federal CARES act. 

The Housing Resource Center will use that to maintain 10 hotel rooms for potential COVID-19 patients — suspected cases waiting for test results. 

The county previously had an agreement with the Housing Resource Center to maintain four rooms, Anderson said. 

Anderson noted the county has shifted its strategy since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak. 

At first, it planned to help people isolate themselves in hotel rooms if they had tested positive, until they were recovered and able to leave. Now, he said, people awaiting testing can stay in the hotel rooms — if they are unable to self-isolate at home — and if they test positive can then stay at the facility run by The Salvation Army at the fairgrounds. 

The facilities are specifically for people who have nowhere to isolate or cannot isolate at home, such as the homeless. 

“This was an important piece of our variance application,” Anderson noted

Lewis County was granted a variance Friday to move into phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Safe Start Washington” plan, allowing for more businesses and recreation to open. 

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