NORFOLK, Va. – The Safe Hotel Project is keeping 120 men and women off the streets of Norfolk. These individuals are given a room at one of two local hotels being utilized to keep people safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s intended for individuals who are 65 or older and also those with medical conditions that put them at greater risk of serious illness or death if they contract COVID-19.
The Safe Hotel Project has been running since the spring when the pandemic started. It’s funded through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act.
“We have a lot of folks in the program we’ve known for years who have struggled with homelessness. We also have people who are experiencing homelessness for the first time who have maybe lost their jobs or had hours reduced because of COVID,” explained Carolsue McGehee, a Program Administrator with the Norfolk Community Services Board.
In addition to keeping the individuals safer, it also means they're not frequently visiting public spaces and potentially exposing others.
The temporary residents are also given health screenings and even a weekly nurse visit provided by Sentara.
“A lot of times, they are able to take care of issues here in-house, so they don’t have to go to the provider,” said Program Administrator Marla Robinson.
One meal a day is provided through faith-based organizations. Some of them also rely on nearby food pantries.
McGehee says the guests are required to follow some basic rules and says there’s no exit date; however, it is their goal to help them secure long-time solutions.
“The push lately since COVID isn’t going anywhere and there’s certainly more folks in need of this assistance, is to help folks move through their housing processes so we can free it up for other individuals who need it,” stated McGehee.
At this time, the program is at capacity, but they urge anyone experiencing homelessness to contact the Regional Housing Crisis Hotline at 757-587-4202 for assistance, as other solutions may be available.