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Coronavirus Update: California Launches 'Project Roomkey' Initiative To Place Homeless In Hotel Rooms

SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) -- California Gov. Gavin Newsom Friday announced an initiative that would place homeless people in available hotel and motel rooms around the state in partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The "Project Roomkey" initiative with FEMA is the first of its kind in the nation, in which the federal agency would reimburse state and local governments up to 75 percent of the costs of the rooms, including wrap-around services such as meals, security and custodial services, for the next three months. Essential behavioral health and health care services will also be provided by the local governments and community partners, as needed.

Newson made the announcement Friday outside a Sacramento-area motel which has been converted into a shelter for homeless people to isolate themselves.

FEMA and California counties have identified 6,867 rooms which are now in state possession with occupancy agreements; and were looking to identify a total of 15,000 rooms. The agreements also provide for extensions beyond the three-month period as well as options to purchase the properties as part local authorities' array of options for solving the homeless crisis.

"This was the crisis we needed to address before the COVID-19 crisis, and we're not walking away from meeting that crisis head-on as we move through this process."

ALSO READ: SF Mayor Breed: Hotel Rooms Needed For Patient Surge, Not For Immediate Homeless Relief

The hotel and motel rooms would be reserved for extremely vulnerable individuals experiencing homelessness, as health officials around the state seek to flatten the curve and preserve hospital capacity.

"We had a number of counties in the last days that have reported incidences of positive tests results [among the homeless] in counties large and small including San Francisco but other counties in LA that have shown at least a dozen, in fact 14 in our last count. By the way, that's an under count, we know. That's just what has been reported to us," said Newsom. "[There is] heightened concern around the need to do more in our congregate facilities to isolate people into shelters like this and provide those basic essential services as we work through this crisis."

Newsom added the Chef José Andrés' World Central Kitchen would be providing meals to some of the homesless people relocated to hotels.


Local governments would be responsible for identifying which shelter clients or encampment residents are selected for these hotel isolation placements and transporting them to the hotels for intake.

Newsom also said his office was continuing its efforts to deploy 1,305 trailers to local governments, and would serve the same function as the hotels and complement the efforts of Project Roomkey. So far, the state has purchased and deployed 584 trailers.


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