LA to phase out hotel program for homeless

Federal funding uncertain for effort, which fell short of goal to house 15,000

Los Angeles /
Sep.September 23, 2020 11:50 AM
Heidi Marston (Twitter, Getty)
Heidi Marston (Twitter, Getty)

Los Angeles authorities are winding down Project Roomkey, the ambitious plan to move thousands of people without housing into hotels in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Heidi Marston, executive director of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, said that uncertainty in federal funding was squeezing the $100 million program, according to the L.A. Times.

Project Roomkey is a state initiative that is 75 percent funded by federal coronavirus relief. The program is collaboratively administered on the local level by state and local authorities. Marston’s agency — a joint city-county authority — ran the program mostly with L.A. County.

Around 5,750 people were placed in hotel rooms under the $100 million program, which began in early April with a goal of housing 15,000 people.

The program is housing 3,855 people in 3,922 rooms at 37 hotels across L.A. County. Marston said her agency plans to find housing for them.

Marston said the uncertainty in Federal Emergency Management Agency funding created a risk that authorities would have to abruptly shut down the program. Instead, several hundred beds will be shed each month until the program ceases entirely early next year, according to the Times.

Marston’s homeless services agency and the program have been criticized for allegedly discriminating against disabled people in need of housing.

Earlier this month, the L.A. City Council voted to condition $97 million in funding for the agency on periodic reports from the agency to the city.

While L.A. authorities were able to fill nearly all of the rooms rented for Project Roomkey, other jurisdictions struggled to fill the rooms they rented, in some cases because of a shortage of service providers to help run those properties. [LAT] — Dennis Lynch 


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