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Project Roomkey, which housed thousands of homeless during height of pandemic, being phased out

Project Roomkey being phased out
Project Roomkey being phased out 03:13

Thousands of homeless people got a helping hand during the pandemic with a program called Project Roomkey, which set up many of the unhoused in hotels around the city. Now, though, the program is being phased out and people in one downtown hotel are once again looking for a place to live. 

"You're living in a room all by yourself, a king sized bed and all that. It's great," said Ezekiel, who only wanted to be identified by his first name, who has been living in the Mayfair Hotel downtown. 

Resident of Mayfair Hotel, where the lease for Project Roomkey is coming to an end, peers out his window.  CBSLA

He said he's a veteran and that Project Roomkey saved him from the streets. 

"I've been here a while, like 23 months," Ezekiel said. "Anybody that have anything, like any complaints about this, they're out of their mind. You know, this is like a high-end shelter."

However, Ezekiel now has to find a new home because the lease on the hotel, which transformed it into a temporary shelter, is coming to an end. 

"I was disappointed two days ago because I thought I would have to go homeless again," said another resident, "but now I'm downtown at a hotel. It's definitely a good thing. I mean, it takes me off the street and there's nothing like having your own." 

The Mayfair Hotel was among 37 properties that were part of Project Roomkey. The program launched during COVID to take emergency action to get people off the streets. It was funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, in coordination with state and local municipalities. The money was used to lease a massive amount of empty hotel rooms and gave people a place to stay while they awaited permanent housing. 

There are now only five of these properties left as the project is getting phased out. 

"It helped me a lot. I got Section 8, you know what I mean? I just haven't found my place though. I need a little bit more, so they're going to transfer me over to somewhere else," said one resident. 

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority was supposed to give people 90 days warning before the leases are up, and the agency said that they are placing people. 

"Yeah, they're getting people place," Ezekiel said. "Yeah, yeah, they're getting people places." 

Not all the Mayfair residents agreed with that assessment, though. 

"They're sending people to the street. They're sending people to the shelters," said another resident. "It's a killer spot. I have the 15th floor, the one on the top end. I love it there. I'm rebuilding this lady's store next door."

Though the hotel was supposed to be a temporary solution, for many it became a home. 

One prominent homeless advocate who did not want to speak on camera told CBSLA that losing Project Roomkey will be one less tool they'll have in battling the homelessness crisis, a tool that enabled outreach teams to get people housing quickly and with less hassle. 

"Nobody belongs on the street, but especially me. I'm a senior, come on," said the Mayfair resident that lives on the 15th floor. 

As of now, the LA County does not have its official homeless count for 2022 because of COVID, with the count being delayed until September. 

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