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Project Roomkey converts hotel and motel rooms in California to protect homeless from COVID-19

Gov Newsom announces roomkey project

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Governor Gavin Newsom announced the launch of Project Roomkey on Friday from a newly converted motel in Sacramento. The initiative allows the state to secure thousands of hotel and motel rooms across the state and convert them to secure isolation housing for the homeless to protect that population from the coronavirus.

Newsom said the plan is another way to flatten the curve of this disease and preserve hospital capacity as the outbreak peaks in the coming weeks or months.

“Homeless Californians are incredibly vulnerable to COVID-19 and often have no option to self-isolate or social distance,” said Governor Newsom. “By helping the most vulnerable homeless individuals off the street and into isolation, California can slow the spread of COVID-19 through homeless populations, lower the number of people infected and protect critical health care resources. We’re working hard with our county partners to get these hotels up and running as rapidly as possible.”

Newsom said California is the first state in the nation to secure FEMA approval to try this idea. The initial goal of Project Roomkey is to secure up to 15,000 rooms. State and local governments will receive up to 75-percent cost-share reimbursement from FEMA for hotel and motel rooms, including wraparound supports such as meals, security, and custodial services. Essential behavioral health and health care services will also be provided by the local governments and community partners, as needed.

Project Roomkey will target hotels in counties with significant homeless populations that are also experiencing high concentrations of COVID-19 transmission. Local governments to date have secured 6,867 hotel and motel rooms for this purpose. The local governments are responsible for identifying which shelter clients or encampment residents are selected for these hotel isolation placements and transporting them to the hotels for intake.

The Governor's office told NewsChannel that Ventura County has 398 rooms, San Luis Obispo County has 154 rooms and Santa Barbara County has no rooms. An official said those numbers are changing weekly.

The Governor also announced a partnership with Chef José Andrés’s World Central Kitchen, which will provide three meals a day to select Project Roomkey hotels through a statewide contract to support local efforts as needed. 

Community / Coronavirus / Economy / Health / Home (Do Not Use) / Money and Business / Politics / San Luis Obispo County / Santa Barbara- S County / Santa Maria - Lompoc - North County / Ventura County

C.J. Ward

C.J. Ward is the evening anchor for KEYT NewsChannel 3 and the station’s lead investigative reporter.

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