Butler County considering Resolutions jail to house homeless quarantined for coronavirus

Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones has offered the use of his Resolutions minimum security jail for homeless who have contracted the coronavirus and must be quarantined.

The number of confirmed cases in Butler County stood at 183 on Monday with two probable infections and three deaths, up from 159 confirmed cases on Friday.

Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Anthony Dwyer said the Resolutions facility is used to house inmates but wouldn’t have a jail-like atmosphere for this purpose.

“It would be a different environment,” Dwyer said. “Obviously it wouldn’t be a correctional environment. These people are not incarcerated, these people would be there through quarantine so their movement would be restricted by way of interaction with others, but there is an outside area where they can step outside, if some of them smoked or anything like that, they would have the ability to still maintain a semblance of not being incarcerated.”

RELATED: Butler County seeks hotel space for quarantined homeless, but finds hurdles

Jones made the offer on Friday, Butler County Health Commissioner Jennifer Bailer issued a press release over the weekend saying officials will employ a “tiered” approach to finding suitable quarantine housing for the homeless.

“In Butler County, no final decision has been made as to any particular option for temporary housing for recovery from COVID-19,” Bailer said. “Indeed, having a tiered approach with a number of options on the table is the best course of action. One option may be best for 1-2 sick people, while another option may be better for larger numbers should that occur.”

Bailer said health districts all over the state are considering options such as hotels, churches, camps, cabins, schools, and jails.

“All of these options have pros and cons, none are 100 percent ideal,” she noted in the release. “We appreciate the many, many partners who have been open to discussing options and solutions for housing. As we move forward, we will see how this evolves.”

Bailer spoke to the commissioners last week about acquiring as much as $181,000 to possibly rent the Oxford Comfort Inn.

“This is for people that are walking and talking, able to take care of themselves but who are experiencing symptoms or they may be waiting to see if they experience symptoms,” Bailer said. “This is not an infirmary, this is not a step-down hospital in any way.”

The initial estimate was $42,000 to rent 20 rooms for four weeks, according to records obtained by the Journal-News. The lodging cost 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. She told commissioners she was seeking other options.

Dwyer said if she chooses Resolutions the facility is large enough to fit her needs and the sheriff’s office will help however it can.

“We told them if you wanted us to staff it, it would probably be the simplest way to staff it, our staff is familiar with the building itself, the security measures around the building and they are also familiar with proper PPE (personal protective equipment) etiquette when it comes to dealing with people that are contagious,” Dwyer said.

“But Jenny may want medical people to do it, it might just be one person for key access. I don’t have those answers, it would be a discussion if and when that happens, it would not be very difficult to assess what the needs were.”

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

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 week. They also put another $100,000 into the line item to pay for coronavirus expenses.

Mindy Muller with the Butler County Housing and Homeless Coalition said last week they had rehoused 17 families over the past few weeks. Now there are 21 families living with friends and family and 31 have their own units.

She told the commissioners Monday that officials in the statewide homeless system “are really impressed with how quickly Butler County has moved.”

“The state from the homeless coalition perspective is looking at what Butler County is doing,” she said. “You’re leading in ways that you don’t even recognize, it’s being seen and noticed throughout the state and really across the country.”

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