Hotels for People Experiencing Homelessness

The hotel-to-shelter model shows positive outcomes.

Raymond stayed in the Columbus House Emergency Shelter Program at a local hotel. He was recently housed and is receiving case management through Columbus House. Credit: Emily Hays, New Haven Independent

When the pandemic hit in early 2020, homeless services providers in New Haven and around the state suddenly had to figure out an alternative to existing emergency shelters. The communal sleeping spaces of shelters could not comply with social distancing requirements.

Working together with city and state officials, providers secured funding through FEMA to pay for local hotel rooms. FEMA renewed the funding in 2021, and for many people caught in a cycle of homelessness, it has been a lifesaver.

Clients have said, ‘Wow, this is what it’s like to have my own place.’ It has helped motivate some people to get housing ready.

John Brooks / Columbus House

Columbus House, which operates several year-round shelter programs as one of the region’s largest homeless services providers, was able to expand its shelter capacity with the hotel funding, according to Chief Development Officer John Brooks. The hotel suites have been particularly beneficial to people with medical issues, he added.

The hotel stays have also helped people experiencing homelessness with turning their lives around and preparing to live in a home of their own.

“Hotels provide safety and they also provide the clients with a greater level of independence and privacy,” said Brooks. “Clients have said, ‘Wow, this is what it’s like to have my own place.’ It has helped motivate some people to get housing ready.”

Brooks said while the FEMA funds are set to expire in February 2022, there is an expectation they will be renewed.

Read The New Haven Independent story about the hotel shelter program.

Columbus House has been a longtime grant recipient of The Community Foundation, receiving funding to aid such things as technical assistance for long range planning and Board development in the late 1980s to the construction of a shelter building at 586 Ella Grasso Blvd. in New Haven in the early 2000s. More recently, it was awarded a $155,000 multi-year general operating support grant in 2020 and received $20,000 from the COVID-19 Community Fund.

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