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Suffolk will get its first-ever homeless shelter after the City Council unanimously approved a permit to renovate the former Regal Inn.

“This is going to open up a lot of doors for a lot of people, to give them a chance to get started over again,” said council member Leroy Bennett.

The 19-room Regal Inn off Pruden Boulevard will be renovated for temporary stays. Deputy City Manager Kevin Hughes told WHRO in September that during the pandemic, many localities used hotels as places to house homeless residents — especially as nonprofits struggled with housing demands.

“Hotel rooms were used essentially to kind of get folks off the street and provide some assistance,” Hughes said. "But that really was just putting a Band-Aid on a wound.”

 In Suffolk, almost a third of renters spend 30% or more on housing alone, meeting the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s definition of cost-burdened.

HUD gave the city $1.4 million during the height of the pandemic as part of the American Rescue Plan Act. That money will purchase the hotel property, but won’t cover renovation costs.

The city hopes to partner with the Western Tidewater Free Clinic, which is near the property, and provide resources like counseling or job training.

“It's not a large step. It's a baby step. But I'm hoping and praying that we will be able to …continue to help the people that's really in need,” Bennett said.

Mayor Mike Duman said the shelter is in the perfect location, and that it’s a great use of federal funds.

“It's a win for our citizens, it's a win for the homeless, and it's a small win for humanity,” he said.