With Covid surging, program to house homeless in hotels gets extension

State’s Project Roomkey gets FEMA funding guaranteed

Los Angeles /
Dec.December 22, 2020 03:00 PM
Gov. Gavin Newsom (Getty, iStock)
Gov. Gavin Newsom (Getty, iStock)

California’s program to temporarily house the homeless in hotels — which had been winding down — is getting extended as coronavirus cases surge statewide.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will continue to reimburse California’s “Project Roomkey” throughout the national declaration of emergency, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced last week. FEMA will reimburse 75 percent of the cost through its disaster relief fund, with the state paying the rest.

Project Roomkey has provided temporary housing to 23,000 at-risk California homeless — including thousands in Los Angeles —and those with pre-existing illnesses. At the same time, the program has provided a financial boost to hotels that have been battered by the pandemic. As of Dec. 21, there were 18 Project Roomkey hotel sites in L.A. County occupied by 2,380 people, according to a county spokesperson.

But the program’s coordination has not always been smooth between federal and state agencies, and counties, local governments and nonprofit service providers. In one instance, a hotel in Downtown L.A. was receiving Project Roomkey funding despite its owner, Shenzhen New World Group, having been implicated in an elaborate pay-to-play scandal involving former L.A. City Council member Jose Huizar. Shenzhen New World and its chairman, Wei Huang, were indicted on Nov. 30 on racketeering charges.

State officials previously announced Project Roomkey was getting phased out, anticipating federal funds drying up, and as resources shifted to buying hotels that would serve as homeless shelters.

The Newsom administration, though, began changing in mid-November, announcing $62 million in emergency funding to Project Roomkey, one of several measures the state put forward as daily Covid cases began to soar and haven’t slowed down.

Now, the assurance of FEMA money “takes the uncertainty out of the [Project Roomkey] program,” said Russ Heimerich, of the state Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency.

An L.A. County spokesperson said the county will continue to operate Project Roomkey at least through April, though that could be extended “based on the circumstances, which include the availability of FEMA funding.”

Despite the renewal, some aid groups contracted to provide health care and meal services at Project Roomkey hotels — including the Salvation Army — are moving on. The Salvation Army said it is now focused on coordinating its efforts for a different program: “Project Homekey” In that program, the state uses federal CARES Act money to buy hotels for the homeless.


Related Articles

arrow_forward_ios
Initiative to decide whether LA hotels should house the homeless
Voters to decide whether LA hotels should house the homeless
Voters to decide whether LA hotels should house the homeless
Alhambra takes shot at SB9 with emergency ordinance
Alhambra takes shot at SB9 with emergency ordinance
Alhambra takes shot at SB9 with emergency ordinance
Skid row in downtown Los Angeles (iStock)
Feds find sheltered homeless population highly concentrated in CA, NY
Feds find sheltered homeless population highly concentrated in CA, NY
State of California to hand out pandemic-related mortgage relief
State of California to hand out pandemic-related mortgage relief
State of California to hand out pandemic-related mortgage relief
Dip in signed contracts reflects LA’s ongoing inventory squeeze
Dip in signed contracts reflects LA’s inventory squeeze
Dip in signed contracts reflects LA’s inventory squeeze
Downtown LA’s Standard Hotel to shutter permanently
Downtown LA’s Standard Hotel to shutter permanently
Downtown LA’s Standard Hotel to shutter permanently
Hotel bookings in LA reached pre-pandemic levels in fall
Hotel bookings in LA reached pre-pandemic levels in fall
Hotel bookings in LA reached pre-pandemic levels in fall
Super 8 Canoga Park (Google Maps)
Los Angeles seeks $30M to buy motels for homeless
Los Angeles seeks $30M to buy motels for homeless
arrow_forward_ios

The Deal's newsletters give you the latest scoops, fresh headlines, marketing data, and things to know within the industry.

Loading...