Homeless housing program gets pushback from locals

Published: Aug. 23, 2021 at 7:17 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - It’s called the Motels4Now program, not the Motels4Ever program.

“I do remember, it was in response to the CDC recommendation during a COVID pandemic, to shelter the unsheltered to prevent the spread of COVID” said the co-founder of St. Joseph County’s Motels4Now program Araquel Bloss.

The Motels4Now contract between the county and the Knights Inn on Lincolnway West in South Bend is set to expire on Sept. 30.

Some wonder to what extent a program designed to house the homeless has helped the homeless.

“I don’t see a lot of success. This is basically giving people a place to lay their head with no structured services to either attempt to find help for mental illness, chemical, or alcohol dependency,” said St. Joseph County Commissioner Derek Dieter.

“What it really needs is a focal, a focused person on building the strategy, a program that works. That’s less shelter and more program,” added Bloss.

Indeed, some bad things have happened—there have been 299 police, fire, and ambulance calls to the site. “And back in July, three of my windows got broken, one of those tenants, he got into an argument with his girlfriend he just came out and start throwing rocks and broke my window,” said Anwi Issa who operates the business next door to the hotel, Unique Beauty.

But some say some good things have happened here as well.

“I’m homeless. I left a relationship of 13-years of abuse, strangulation: he tried to stomp me to death,” recalled resident Julie Sharp-Flenniken. “I had a drug conviction, that’s what caused me to be where I am right now, and I’m in classes, and I’m in group, and I’m in A.A. N.A. meetings. As long as I complete this program for them, they will drop that felony down so I can have a misdemeanor so I can get housing.If it wasn’t for this place, I would have nothing. Absolutely nothing.”

The county auditor has prepared an appropriations request that seeks $829,000 to keep the program going for an additional six months, although he said he did not expect the Knights Inn to continue to be the host facility.

The St. Joseph County Council is expected to consider the future of the program at a meeting on Sept. 14.

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