Project Roomkey almost certainly saved lives, but fell short of its initial goals

The state program housed thousands of people in temporary hotel lodgings

(County of Los Angeles)
(County of Los Angeles)

The jury remains out on the effectiveness of the state’s Project Roomkey program in Los Angeles, now set to be phased out as funding ends.

The state program moved thousands of unhoused people into empty hotels during the pandemic, but fell short of its goal of housing all 15,000 people eligible under the program.

The program housed 4,200 people at its peak, according to the L.A. Times. Around 2,000 people transitioned to permanent housing.

Federal financial support for the program is set to end in September, but it is “still not clear if that’s going to actually happen,” L.A. Homeless Services Authority Executive Director Heidi Marston said.

John Maceri, CEO of services provider People Concern, said that the benefit of the program “was we’ve never seen the massive movement of as many people in as short a time.”

He pulled People Concern out of the program after three months, in part because of delays in reimbursement, as well as uncertainty over the future.

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“One of the concerns we had from the beginning was, ‘What was going to be next?’” Maceri said.

Project Roomkey almost certainly succeeded in one of its primary goals — to save lives and prevent the spread of Covid-19 in what would otherwise be overcrowded shelters.

Marston said that Project Roomkey helped mitigate the spread of Covid-19. Data showed last fall that spread at camps was roughly comparable to spread among the wider population.

Federal funding became uncertain last fall, prompting plans to wind down the program, which was refocused to help transition people to more permanent housing.

The state also launched Project Homekey last fall to buy hotels and convert them to permanent shelters.

[LAT] — Dennis Lynch