Update on Hotels for California's Homeless

[Edited to include recent Los Angeles information.]

After a slow start while logistical, medical, and safety issues were ironed out, cities in California started relocating homeless people to hotel rooms this week.

On March 18th, Governor Gavin Newsom allocated $150 million in emergency funds and announced a plan to house the homeless in hotels and motels across the state. The state leases the property and local counties control the operations.

Los Angeles

(March 27, 2020) California's state and local officials have started working on ways to quickly move homeless people indoors, though so far the numbers have been small. What Gov. Gavin Newsom billed a week ago as a coordinated effort has in reality rolled out in the same patchwork, locally led approach that has hamstrung solutions to homelessness for decades.

“You can’t just put somebody in a hotel room,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Tuesday. “You have to be able to monitor them and make sure that you can check on their temperature or, if they are symptomatic, you can check health.”

“Even if communities are able to offer housing, forcing people against their will into services or accommodations of any kind is simply not an effective approach,” said Barbara DiPietro, policy director of the National Health Care for the Homeless Council.

Source: Why a fight over homeless people could determine how much coronavirus hurts California

(April 2, 2020) Day One of the unprecedented shelter effort in Los Angeles revealed the daunting struggle that lies ahead across the state. By dinnertime on a recent Friday, a shuttle bus had dropped off only four homeless people at a community center that was being turned into a shelter in the Echo Park neighborhood.

The four clients sat on the curb, waiting to be checked in. But the nurse had yet to arrive. Cots had not been delivered. One of the four, a distraught older woman in gray sweatpants, kept repeating “food, food.” When a helper tried to escort her to a restroom across the street to wash up before eating, she would not follow. Eventually, she wandered off and could not be coaxed back.

In a matter of weeks, the city is trying to voluntarily move 6,000 unsheltered people into 42 community and recreation centers that are being converted into shelters. Those who are especially vulnerable, though not showing symptoms of COVID-19, as well as those who need to be quarantined will be sent to hotels, motels, or care centers.

Source: Housing crisis or health crisis? On the streets of California it’s both.

San Francisco

(April 1, 2020) For hotel rooms, the number one priority is to divert individuals who need to quarantine because they're COVID-19 positive or have shown symptoms. Ninety-five percent of these individuals are homeless, the remaining are those who live in congregate settings.

"Vulnerable populations" will also be given priority for those hotels, the priority given to those who are in homeless shelters, provided they can self-care.

To date [April 1, 2020], San Francisco has entered into contracts with six hotels, providing 679 rooms -- 123 people have already been moved into hotels. Two other hotels with 563 rooms will finalize their contract today. Another 1,500-room hotel will hopefully be available by the end of the week.

Source: Coronavirus: San Francisco renting hotel rooms to house homeless, first responders, vulnerable

Oakland

(March 30, 2020) The first guests have arrived at one Oakland hotel the state has leased to get the homeless off the streets during the pandemic. The Comfort Inn & Suites is now the site of “Operation Comfort.” The hotel is being used as a place to house the homeless who may have the virus. It is staffed with nurses, security and others to provide around-the-clock care.

The Radisson Hotel next door is the site of “Operation Safer Ground.” The hotel will open Wednesday [April 1, 2020] to homeless people who are over 65 years old or who have chronic health conditions. Every guest will have their belongings treated in a special heated tent designed to kill bed bugs. They will then get a room with their own private bathroom and in-room meal service three times a day.

A bus is being used to transport the homeless from encampments to the hotels. It has been carefully cordoned off to force passengers to sit six feet apart. The end goal is to eventually transition the homeless to permanent housing, but for now, getting them safely sheltered is critical.

Source: Oakland Hotels Housing the Homeless During Coronavirus Pandemic

San Diego

(March 31, 2020) San Diegan Aime Zamudio is working with community activist Tasha Williams. They are collecting donations and using that money to book hotel rooms for those in need of a place to shower or rest. "One person we've had in a hotel room since March 15th and he is experiencing homelessness and has leukemia and was going through the struggle of finding a place," said Zamudio.

County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said the county has secured more than 2,000 hotel rooms for people who need a place to stay. Fletcher said there are hotel rooms available for those with symptoms and those without.

The City of San Diego is also working on housing homeless at the Convention Center and Golden hall in downtown. The City says they plan to use the Convention Center as a shelter for men who do not show any COVID-19 symptoms.

Source: San Diego Woman Helping Homeless Get Hotel Rooms During COVID-19 Pandemic

Hotel California by The Eagles

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The pandemic is actually causing some places to do what should have been done long ago--find housing for the homeless. Yes, it is temporary. But it really points out that it is possible to do what always should have been done, get homeless people off the street and into housing.

We need to be organizing to get these kind of changes to be permanent. Another example: New York State has always had a patchwork of public and private hospitals. They have competed against each other instead of cooperating with each other and the public has not been well served, especially by the public hospitals, which have always been the poor stepchild of the "system", such as it was. Now, due to the emergency of the pandemic, Gov. Cuomo has got all the hospitals acting like a single system for the first time. The long term benefits of this to the public are obvious, if it is sustained and made permanent. We must begin demanding this. That is the silver lining of this pandemic: the unthinkable is becoming the necessary good. No going back to "normal". Normal didn't work anyway.

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