McLean County will consider providing more funding to help keep the homeless out of the cold this winter.
The County Board is scheduled to vote at its regular meeting Thursday on a proposal to give up to $48,000 dollars to the PATH Crisis Center in Bloomington to pay for hotel stays for those who can't get into a homeless shelter.
“As bad as this weather has been, we don’t want anybody to be out in this cold and die because of a lack of funding,” County Board Chairman John McIntyre said.
PATH Crisis Center Executive Director Karen Zangerle told members of the County Board’s Executive Committee on Monday the agency had exhausted all its emergency housing funding this winter because the pandemic has limited available shelter beds.
Homeless shelters have more limited capacity because of social distancing and the Salvation Army’s Safe Harbor shelter in Bloomington recently had a COVID outbreak. Zangerle said that has greatly reduced capacity during a critical time of year after homeless shelters largely stayed COVID-free for much of the year.
“We were having hopeful thoughts about COVID which was just wrong,” she told the committee. “We should have figured out the worst.”
The Executive Committee approved the funding by a 8-0 vote.
The money comes from the county's forgivable loan program for small businesses that are struggling during the pandemic.
McIntyre said the loan program which is administered by the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council has committed about $170,000 to small businesses in McLean County so far.
Zangerle said the funding from the county should last through the end of March if winter weather persists. She said PATH would return any unspent funds back to the county if demand for shelter beds decreases.
Zangerle told the committee PATH counted 27 people experiencing homelessness in Bloomington-Normal at the end of January.
"The biggest price of all is we are saving a life," she said.
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