Just half the 15K hotel rooms state rented for homeless are occupied

Project Roomkey was supposed to slow spread of coronavirus, but pushback from towns, along with service providers getting stretched thin, have hampered effort

Gov. Gavin Newsom (Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Gov. Gavin Newsom (Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

California has rented out 15,000 hotel rooms for homeless and vulnerable people to help slow the spread of coronavirus, but pushback from local communities has contributed to just half of those rooms being occupied.

Some counties have had more success than others filling them through the state’s Project Roomkey and hurdles vary, according to the Los Angeles Times. L.A. County, whose homeless population has been numbered at 59,000, has had fewer problems than some other parts of the state.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has said that some towns have opposed efforts to convert the empty hotels, which has slowed implementation of the program. But in many parts of the state, local authorities also have trouble finding enough service providers to help manage rooms and residents.

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Sacramento County has leased two-thirds of its rooms, but has held off signing leases for 570 rooms, despite having a waiting list of people ready to occupy them, according to the Times. Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, who co-chairs the state’s homelessness task force, said “there aren’t enough service providers to help run the hotels and eventually help transition the residents into permanent housing.”

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority has filled most rooms within three days of availability, but interim executive director Heidi Marston told the Times the major service providers in the county “are getting stretched.”

Over 3,200 rooms have been rented in the county and about 2,100 are occupied. The program was touted by authorities as a way to house people and support hotels during the pandemic. Some counties may be paying for any rooms leased, but L.A. County is only compensating hotels for rooms once they are occupied. [LAT]Dennis Lynch