LA County Supervisors plan for the long-term as the homeless move into hotels

Officials to devise ways to get people into housing after the crisis subsides

County supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Janice Hahn
County supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Janice Hahn

The state and local governments have rented thousands of hotel and motel rooms to house vulnerable people to combat the spread of the virus. Now, Los Angeles County officials are thinking long term.

Officials have rented nearly 2,000 beds in 23 hotels in the county through Project Roomkey in the last two weeks. County supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Janice Hahn said Tuesday they are developing a plan to get homeless seniors and others into more stable arrangements, according to the L.A. Daily News.

That could include using housing vouchers and moving people into supportive housing units coming online, Ridley-Thomas said.

“We can’t just think short-term,” Ridley-Thomas said. “We need to be thinking two steps ahead in order to mount a crisis response that is not only comprehensive but sustained.”

Project Roomkey was created by the state and is administered at the county level. It’s mostly funded with federal dollars.

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The county has housed about 515 people through the program. Ultimately, the state wants to house about 15,000 homeless people, but appears far short of achieving that number to date. Hahn said she wanted to make sure people who have been housed “do not end up back on the streets” when the coronavirus crisis subsides.

With occupancy rates in the single digits, housing the homeless among the only ways for hoteliers in the state to capture revenue right now.

Tens of thousands of hotel workers across the state have been laid off since mid-March when Newsom partially suspended the state’s WARN law, which normally forces employers to give workers 60 days notice before carrying out layoffs of 50 or more employees. In all, about 125,000 hotel workers in the state are expected to lose their jobs.

On Tuesday the County Board of Supervisors also moved ahead a renters assistance measure. If ultimately approved, the county would pay up renters struggling with lockdowns up to $1,000 a month for three months.

County officials see that program as a way to support tenants when rent bills finally come due after the coronavirus crisis subsides as well as a way to help landlords. [LADN] — Dennis Lynch