BANGOR, Maine — A Bangor hotel is temporarily closed to the public to house people experiencing homelessness during the coronavirus pandemic.
Penobscot Community Health Care is providing shelter to people in need at the Ramada Inn on Odlin Road, as an extension of services it offers at the Hope House homeless shelter. Social distancing requirements brought on by COVID-19 resulted in a lack of space at the Hope House, reducing capacity.
The entire Ramada Inn facility is now leased through an arrangement with the state of Maine via the Maine State Housing Authority. Half of the facility is dedicated to coronavirus-free rooms, while the other half is dedicated to coronavirus-positive rooms and people who are under investigation for COVID-19. MSHA has also signed a separate contract with PCHC, indicating PCHC will handle operations and manage services at the hotel.
Contracts run on a 30-day basis. PCHC says the lease MSHA signed with the property owner gives them the option to renew each month. Bangor city manager Catherine Conlow told NEWS CENTER Maine when the emergency order passed by Gov. Janet Mills is lifted, procedures will likely go back to normal. There is no permanent change at this point -- Conlow says if there were, zoning changes would be required.
In the earlier stages of the pandemic, people experiencing homelessness were being housed at the Hope House, Ramada Inn, Super 8, and the Columbia Street Baptist Church. Having four separate locations was tough for staff members to handle, though, which is why officials say consolidation will be more efficient logistically and for taxpayers' dollars -- and allow for more accommodations.
During a Zoom call with NEWS CENTER Maine, the CEO of PCHC, Lori Dwyer, said people will continue moving into the Ramada Inn over the next one or two weeks. At this point, she says no one at the Ramada Inn has tested positive yet. Their primary goal is helping people in need as much as possible.
"It’s fundamentally about treating everyone in a dignified manner," Dwyer expressed. "They’re grown adults who have the same fears and concerns about contracting COVID-19 as everybody else. They face a lot more barriers than most of us, in terms of being able to protect themselves and their families."
Before the coronavirus pandemic, there were about 66 beds available for people in need through PCHC as a whole. The agreement with the Ramada Inn will make up for beds lost because of social distancing requirements. It will also help house people from other shelters around the city where overflow is an issue.
For the time being, the Ramada Inn is closed to the public, and no outside visitors are permitted.