City moves homeless people at risk of COVID-19 from Center City hotel to permanent housing

Holiday Inn Express used as quarantine site for homeless people
The Holiday Inn Express on Walnut Street in Center City was used as a quarantine and isolation site for homeless people with the coronavirus or symptoms. Now, those most at-risk of COVID-19 who were staying there will be moved to permanent housing. Photo credit Kristen Johanson/KYW Newsradio
By KYW Newsradio

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia officials are in the midst of transferring more than a hundred people from COVID prevention rooms in a Center City hotel into permanent housing.

The Holiday Inn Express on Walnut Street — which no longer has any brand logos anywhere on its facade — will remain in service for unsheltered people with COVID-19, or its symptoms, who are not sick enough to be hospitalized but must isolate or quarantine and have nowhere else to go.

However, another group of homeless people have been living there, those over 65 or with underlying conditions, for whom COVID-19 could be deadly.

The goal was prevention. They stayed on separate floors and used different elevators.

Federal funding for that is ending this month but Office of Homeless Services director Liz Hersh said the city was determined not to send them back to shelter or the streets.

"We've been working for several months on creating plenty of permanent housing opportunities," she said. "We just have an obligation to do everything we can to keep them safe."

According to Hersh, about 175 people in this specific group will have to move by the end of the year. Each has a case manager and support services to put their housing plan in place. 30 people are already in their permanent homes.

"One woman who moved this week is in her 90s," she said. "Imagine being in your 90s and homeless."

There will still be COVID-19 prevention space, but it will be at four community-based sites, not at the hotel.