Fort Lauderdale homeless put up in motels during pandemic refusing to leave as state’s coronavirus surges

Some homeless people in Fort Lauderdale who have been living in motels for three months as a part of citywide efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus are reportedly refusing to leave if the state cannot come up with the funding to extend the program that’s kept them off the streets.

Fort Lauderdale began distributing motel vouchers in late April to house the homeless during the pandemic.

Mayor Dean Trantalis said Sunday that funding to keep the voucher program in place has run out, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported. A city memo said the more than 60 people at the Rodeway Inn and Suites on State Road 84 in Dania Beach must vacate their rooms by 11 a.m. Monday.

By Sunday evening, Trantalis told the newspaper that City Manager Chris Lagerbloom was able to contact Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office, which reportedly agreed to give Rodeway Inn and Suites the funding sometime this week to keep the homeless guests in motel rooms as cases in the state spike at record highs.

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Google Maps Rodeway Inn and Suites on State Road 84 in Dania Beach

Google Maps Rodeway Inn and Suites on State Road 84 in Dania Beach

“The governor wants to avoid this crisis as much as we do,” Trantalis said. “We’re going to pay for these rooms and we have a good relationship with these motels.”

Alexis Butler, an organizer with Fort Lauderdale’s Food Not Bombs, which hands out meals every week at Stranahan Park, said she’s skeptical the state funding will come in time to prevent evictions.

“A good chunk of the homeless may refuse to leave, and we’re going to assist in any way they want to proceed,” Butler said Sunday night. “They keep saying they have funding, but nothing is happening.”

“We’ve got four pregnant women, a blind person, and someone with stage 2 cancer,” she continued. “One man got so stressed out today about having to leave that he had a stroke and was taken to the hospital. We don’t know his current condition.”

Florida on Monday recorded more than 12,600 new coronavirus cases within the last 24-hour period, just a day after its 15,000-case spike Sunday set a new daily record for any state since the pandemic began.

In total, Florida has recorded at least 282,435 confirmed coronavirus cases, with at least 4,277 death as of Monday, according to the state health department. More than 2.6 million people have been tested.

Fort Lauderdale initially planned to use $500,000 in federal grants to pay for the first set of rooms for 60 days.

In May, Fort Lauderdale asked Broward County if other cities would help foot the bill for rooms, meals, and case management workers overseeing the hotel voucher program. In addition to the motel in Dania Beach, Trantalis also moved to house more than 100 homeless at an Extended Stay America motel within Fort Lauderdale city limits, the Sun-Sentinel reported.