Project Roomkey has locked out most vulnerable, advocates charge

Statewide program meant to slow spread of Covid by housing homeless in hotels has discriminated against the disabled, advocacy groups charged in a letter to LA officials

Heidi Marston, Executive Director of LAHSA
Heidi Marston, Executive Director of LAHSA

The state’s Project Roomkey was designed to house elderly, vulnerable and homeless people in hotels to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

But housing advocates are now accusing the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority of discrimination, saying the agency locked out disabled people from the program, according to the Los Angeles Times.

In a letter to the Homeless Services Authority, advocates said the agency deliberately excluded people who needed assistance with basic activities such as using the bathroom and getting out of bed, according to the Times. The letter — numerous city and county officials received copies — said the action violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and the federal Fair Housing Act, among other laws.

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“We have heard from many service providers that they have been unable to obtain [Project Roomkey] approval for their clients who are older individuals with a range of disabilities,” according to the letter, which was signed by Los Angeles Aging Advocacy Coalition and Justice in Aging among other groups.

L.A. County’s Project Roomkey program has leased 4,000 rooms and about 90 percent are occupied.

The letter does not threaten legal action, and the groups that signed it are scheduled to meet with representatives for the city on Tuesday. Heidi Marston, executive director of LAHSA, said she would not answer questions before the meeting. But in a statement said, she said the agency is “committed to providing needed services to the many people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County, a population with complex needs, in an environment of limited resources.” [LAT]Dennis Lynch