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See the latest news and updates about COVID-19 and its impact on the Charlotte region, the Carolinas and beyond.

FEMA To Help NC Pay For Temporary Housing For Homeless People

Many homeless people have moved their tents this week to East 13th St., near the Urban Ministry Center.
David Boraks
Many homeless people moved their tents last month to East 13th St., near the Urban Ministry Center.

Updated Thursday, April 9, 2020
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has agreed to help North Carolina pay for 16,500 temporary housing units for people experiencing homelessness amid the coronavirus crisis. State Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry said Wednesday the housing would be for people who need to be housed separately because of COVID-19. 

"They may be high risk. They might be homeless," Sprayberry said. "They could be folks that are stepping down out of an acute facility and actually getting well, but we can put them in dormitories and hotels and motels."

Gov. Roy Cooper said FEMA will pay 75% of the cost of the temporary units, which also could include trailers. 

"These types of alternatives will help people who have no other safe options to self-isolate or social distance while we slow the spread of this virus,” Cooper said in a press release. 

The state plans to work with local agencies to find and fill the units. 

The FEMA and state funds include the cost of utilities, waste disposal, and other services such as laundry, food, cleaning and security. 

Advocates for homeless residents say more people have unstable housing or are living on the street right now as the COVID-19 crisis expands. Also, shelters have been trying to find temporary housing for homeless residents so they can reduce their numbers to allow for social distancing. 

Mecklenburg County officials said Thursday they may use the money to pay for what they're already doing. The county said in an email statement: 

"Mecklenburg County has already put a plan in place in response to COVID-19 using local hotels for both social distancing as well as quarantine purposes. With the announcement yesterday of available FEMA and state funding, we are looking into the option of funding the ongoing efforts and/or expanding those efforts with these funds. As further decisions are made, they will be communicated."

Dashiell Coleman contributed to this report. 

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David Boraks previously covered climate change and the environment for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.