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SF to use virus funds to buy motel for homeless

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – The city of Santa Fe received $17.6 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funding this month, and already officials are eyeing some big projects.

Most notable is a plan to use $2 million to help finance the purchase of a motel for the city’s homeless population, an idea city officials have mulled for months.

During a special City Council meeting Thursday, Alexandra Ladd, the city’s affordable housing director, said the idea is to keep those without shelter off the street to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

She also clarified that the city wasn’t interested in buying a motel.

“The city would not retain ownership of the property,” Ladd said. “The property would be owned and operated by a nonprofit.”

She did not specify which nonprofit would take over the operation.

The city has been using motels to house those without shelter since the early days of the pandemic, particularly at the GreenTree Inn in Santa Fe.

Community Services Director Kyra Ochoa told the Journal in July that renting motel rooms would not be a sustainable option in the long run, and that any motel purchased could provide transitional housing to help people get out of the cycle of homelessness.

Both Ochoa and Mayor Alan Webber have declined to say which properties are currently under consideration, but the city has a limited time frame to purchase any property.

All $17.6 million the state awarded to the city must be spent by the end of the year, a requirement some officials fear will be a tall order to fill.

“It’s a lot of money, it’s going to be difficult to spend,” Councilor Chris Rivera said.

The city has created a list of projects to fund, including $3.6 million for rental and food assistance for the CONNECT program, which helps residents contact nonprofits providing financial relief.

It has earmarked $5 million for reimbursements of money already spent on items related to COVID-19, such as protective equipment, and housing homeless individuals at local motels and the Midtown Campus.

Some funds will be allocated to purchase new ambulances for the fire department and to set up free WiFi for those living in the city’s Southside and Midtown areas.

The state will reimburse the city for all purchases made with CARES Act funding. Webber said the city will have to keep meticulous records of all purchases to ensure they are reimbursed.

“If we can’t push these projects through the decision-making process in a timely way, we will lose it,” he said. “We will end up with egg on our face.”

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