Sacramento, California - Governor Gavin Newsom today announced plans to immediately direct $62 million in one-time funds from the State’s Disaster Response Emergency Operations Account to counties around the state to continue providing housing to current Project Roomkey participants. After consultation with the Legislature, the Administration is making these available immediately to local governments with Project Roomkey sites so that clients living in motel or hotel rooms under this life-saving program will not be forced to return to street homelessness while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact California.
The State has been in regular communication with all Project Roomkey counties and tribes, and the need for additional local support has been made clear. Since being announced in April, Project Roomkey has used CARES Act funding and FEMA cost-sharing to successfully shelter more than 22,300 individuals experiencing homelessness and who are at highest risk of COVID-19, such as people over 65, people who have underlying medical conditions and people who have been exposed to the virus but who do not need hospitalization. Building on support from the Legislature and the Administration, the local governments implementing Project Roomkey have included over 16,000 hotel and motel rooms in 55 counties and three tribal nation areas since it began in April 2020.
“Project Roomkey exceeded all expectations, providing safe shelter to more than 22,300 Californians experiencing homelessness,” said Governor Newsom. “But this pandemic is very much still with us – and we can’t take our eye off the ball. That’s why we’re supporting our counties with this new money, so they can continue this critical life-saving Roomkey mission and help clients transition into more stable, permanent housing. At the end of the day, our top objective for this new funding is keeping everyone – including people experiencing homelessness – safe from COVID-19.”
The $62 million will come from the Disaster Response Emergency Operations Account (DREOA) and will be provided by the Department of Social Services to counties implementing Project Roomkey on a formula basis, to be used as follows:
· Project Roomkey Operations - $24 million to support continued Project Roomkey operations while local communities develop re-housing plans so that no one is forced to leave a Project Roomkey unit and become unsheltered.
· Rehousing - $35 million to develop and implement plans to transition individuals from Project Roomkey into permanent housing. This money can be used for rental subsidies, case management, housing navigation and landlord incentives, among other things.
· Technical Assistance - $3 million to contract with experienced housing providers to deploy housing specialists and provide intensive technical assistance to communities to help them create plans for permanent re-housing of all Project Roomkey occupants.
“We applaud the Administration’s focus on protecting the most vulnerable members of our communities, and their continued support of our local partners, during this difficult period. We look forward to continuing to work with them on this effort in the days and months ahead,” said Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), Chair of the Senate Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review.
“Project Roomkey has played a critical role in protecting our most vulnerable residents during this public health crisis. We’re fortunate California is in a position to react quickly to changing emergency needs. While allocating more funding for Project Roomkey helps in the short-term, I look forward to collaborative budget discussions with the Administration about reducing homelessness, focusing on smart investments and long-term housing solutions,” said Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee.
“Project Roomkey has shown what can happen when all levels of government focus on a rehousing solution. In Los Angeles County, we brought over 6,600 of our most vulnerable inside and out of harm's way in just a few months. We look forward to extending our Project Roomkey program and thank Governor Newsom for his continued support for COVID-vulnerable people experiencing homelessness,” said Heidi Marston, Executive Director of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.
“Alameda County welcomes the Governor’s announcement of additional support for Project Roomkey leased hotels and for moving our homeless residents into housing. This takes time and resources and California's leadership continues to excel by partnering with Counties to shelter and house homeless people during COVID-19,” said Kerry Abbott, Director of Homeless Care and Coordination at the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency.
Governor Newsom stressed that this emergency funding is critically necessary as winter approaches and COVID-19 cases are on the uptick. Furthermore, the Administration is eager to partner with the Legislature when it reconvenes in January to consider more permanent solutions for individuals experiencing homelessness who are at risk of COVID-19, including potential expansions of the Homekey program and other rehousing strategies.