After challenging search, Butler County finds homeless quarantine hotel

A man walks through a homeless camp that has since been cleared out in Hamilton. There are several homeless initiates geared towards helping homeless in Butler County. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
A man walks through a homeless camp that has since been cleared out in Hamilton. There are several homeless initiates geared towards helping homeless in Butler County. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Butler County has found a location where the homeless can stay if they are quarantined by the health commissioner.

Finding a place has not been an easy task, especially in light of mounting coronavirus cases. The commissioners approved a contract with the Best Western in Monroe on Monday for up to $25,000 and another with the Butler County Regional Transit Authority for $5,000 to transport the people needing to be sequestered.

The contract calls for quarantined guests to use a side entrance, wear gloves and masks, and they are not allowed outside their rooms in general areas of the hotel and the county must pay for professionally cleaning the rooms after the guests leave and pay for any damage.

Butler County Health Commissioner Jenny Bailer has not had to quarantine any homeless residents to-date. Emergency Management Director Matt Haverkos said this is just a “contingency” plan.

“There’s no need at this point it’s just a contingency plan for us,” Haverkos said. “We’re building plans for as we need them and other counties in Ohio have already utilized hotels outside of this hotel for some quarantine housing. So it’s a good resource, relatively cheap, knowing that we don’t have this demand of 50 to 100-plus people.”

ExploreButler County considering Resolutions jail to house homeless quarantined for coronavirus

Two previous deals fell through after corporate got involved. Chirag Patel, general manager at the Best Western Monroe said he hasn’t checked with his corporate offices yet and they could nix the deal.

“They probably can do that, but we can convince them you know due to the COVID-19 we don’t have occupancy and we probably have to shut down the property,” Patel said. “In that case we already going to close the property, that’s why we can give the government, so in that case they can you know help other people and somehow we will help the government too.”

He said they have a couple people staying at the hotel now but if the county needs quarantine rooms they will not accept other guests.

No one at the corporate Best Western office could not be reached for comment.

The last hotel deal was with Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Sharonville in northern Hamilton County. The commissioners approved the $25,000 contract but the hotel rescinded its availability last month.

Bailer first broached the subject with the commissioners in April about acquiring as much as $181,000 to possibly rent the Oxford Comfort Inn.

The initial estimate was $42,000 to rent 20 rooms for four weeks. The lodging cost then went up to $73,000 for 65 rooms because the hotel required her to rent the whole place. The rest of the cost, $108,000 was for the county to provide staffing, security, cleaning, food and other incidentals.

“It was originally 20 rooms for 28 days, and now they have requested that we reserve the entire hotel, they’re not comfortable with just a portion of it,” she said at the time, adding a phone call to the hotel’s corporate office changed the game plan. “They were agreeing to close the rest of the hotel, but now they would like us to pay for the rest of the hotel. That’s a pretty significant change so we will continue to look at our options.”

Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones also offered the use of his low level security jail Resolutions for this purpose, but officials have not considered that to be a good option.

Last year the total number of homeless residents was 298 countywide. The total “point-in-time” count for this year isn’t be available yet.

The commissioners allocated $75,000 in unused 2019 Community Development Block Grant money to get more people out of the close quarters in shelters and off the streets last spring.

Mindy Muller with the Butler County Housing and Homeless Coalition said they have not spent the entire allotment of CDBG money yet, they have processed 38 applications for the money.