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Homeless residents at Brattleboro hotel in quarantine

Published: Apr. 19, 2021 at 5:43 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 19, 2021 at 7:25 PM EDT
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BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (WCAX) - A hotel housing the homeless in Brattleboro is in lockdown, with residents being asked to quarantine after positive cases of COVID-19.

We are all in this together. That is one of the many phrases that has come out of the pandemic. And that includes people who are housing insecure.

“It’s nice to have people here who are going through it with me,” Nicholas Luoma said.

Luoma has been living out of a hotel in Brattleboro for the entire pandemic. He says he has struggled with housing all of his adult life. Luoma is one of nearly 90 tenants at the Quality Inn in Brattleboro currently quarantining due to positive COVID-19 cases.

“I wasn’t cooped up in my room already, so when this started I was like, no, I need to get outside. I need to go do something, so it is restless for sure,” Luoma said.

The business is part of the state’s “emergency motel program” that provides people who have no other options a place to stay.

Groundworks Collaborative, a nonprofit focused on food, shelter and supportive services for those in need runs the program in this region of the state.

“For all intents and purposes, the motel is closed to coming and going,” said Josh Davis, the executive director of Groundworks Collaborative.

Meals are being brought in and Groundworks staff are addressing individual needs. Davis says the ordeal, while trying, is strengthening existing partnerships in the community.

“Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, the Brattleboro Retreat, HCRS and our embedded provider program,” Davis said.

Those who tested positive, along with several other close contacts, have been moved to different isolation hotels in Burlington. It’s a large undertaking with a lot of learning on the fly.

“You know this is three or four times the size of the program that we operated a year ago. So, the numbers that we are seeing in the scale is much larger. So there is the public health component of the pandemic, but there is also connection to resources that goes beyond a public health emergency,” Davis said.

That’s not lost on those who benefit from the program.

“I think there is a certain amount of compassion and understanding that we share,” Luoma said.

Testing will begin this Thursday, then another round of testing will take place a week after that. The quarantine will be in place here until at the very least, April 29.

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