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Homelessness Check-In: Project Roomkey And Court Order To House Homeless Individuals Living Near L.A. Freeways




Homeless men are seen sleeping on the street of Skid Row during the COVID-19, Coronavirus pandemic in Los Angeles, California.
Homeless men are seen sleeping on the street of Skid Row during the COVID-19, Coronavirus pandemic in Los Angeles, California.
APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images

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Project Roomkey, launched in early April by California Gov. Gavin Newsom, is the state's effort to "provide safe isolation capacity for tens of thousands of people experiencing homelessness in California in order to protect them and the state from COVID-19." On April 18, the state surpassed its goal of procuring 15,000 hotel and motel rooms for Project Roomkey.

Local governments are responsible for identifying who is selected for isolated housing through the program, and 75 percent of the costs for the rooms and support staff are covered by FEMA. Project Roomkey puts a priority on housing homeless people who have tested positive for coronavirus, those who have been exposed to the virus, and people 65 and older or with underlying medical conditions that put them at higher risk.  

But a recent Los Angeles Times analysis found that Project Roomkey has fallen short of expectations, with half of those 15,0000 rooms currently sitting empty. The Times analysis found that less than 5% of California's population of 151,000 homeless people has been housed through the program.

Another potential complication is a landmark court order announced last Friday that requires the city and county of Los Angeles to find shelter for the thousands of homeless people living near L.A. freeways. The order goes into effect on May 22nd. It's still unclear whether hotel and motel rooms leased through Project Roomkey could be used to house some of the estimated 6,000 to 7,000 homeless individuals currently living under overpasses and alongside L.A. freeway ramps.

Guests:

Heidi Marston, interim executive director of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, the lead agency coordinating housing and services for homeless families and individuals in Los Angeles County

Rev. Andy Bales, CEO of Union Rescue Mission; he tweets @abales