Some California counties winding down hotels for homeless

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Some California counties are pushing plans to end a program to bring homeless people to hotel rooms amid the coronavirus pandemic, despite the state running an emergency money infusion to prevent people from returning to the streets colder Weather when the virus rises.
Governor Gavin Newsom recently announced $ 62 million for counties to move hotel guests to permanent homes or to renew hotel leases, which were part of Project Roomkey, which he launched this spring, to help some homeless people are to protect from the virus. The Federal Emergency Management Agency agreed to pay 75% of the cost.
However, districts say it is time to move residents from expensive hotel rooms to cheaper, more stable housing, as some government aid is about to expire or their status is uncertain. Officials hope to be able to offer a place to every resident who leaves a hotel, although they acknowledge that not everyone will accept this and that it is difficult to find affordable housing.
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California is one of several states, including Washington, that turned to hotels to keep the homeless safe when the virus caught on. Homelessness spiked nationwide during the pandemic and was already at crisis levels in California due to an expensive real estate market and a lack of affordable options. The most populous state in the country has by far the most people on the streets, although other places have a higher per capita rate.
In San Francisco, interest groups and some officials are outraged by the mayor's plan to evacuate hundreds of people from hotels on vacation. They say it's ridiculous when thousands of people are still sleeping on sidewalks and in cars, and they don't believe the city can find enough virus-proof housing for 2,300 people living in more than two dozen hotels.
“It makes absolutely no sense. It's outrageous, irresponsible, and basically telling the homeless that you are not a priority for the city, ”Supervisor Hillary Ronen said as she and other leaders announced legislation to slow the move and ensure that every resident has one alternative accommodation is offered.
The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing said in a statement that money from the state will provide "more flexibility and time," but wouldn't say whether San Francisco has changed its schedule. The department has announced that it will remove homeless people from all 29 hotels by June.
"We will continue to work with city workers and our service providers to meet our commitment to house people and ensure that no one is put back on the streets in our hotels," the statement said.
An estimated 150,000 people affected by homelessness live in California, and there are signs that the number will only increase with a pandemic-hit economy. Newsom has awarded cities and counties $ 800 million for the purchase of hotels and other properties for conversion into residential real estate. He didn't want to miss an opportunity to bring more people into the house.
Russ Heimerich, spokesman for the state agency for the economy, consumer services and housing, said the counties have resources to continue to accommodate the homeless in hotels. He said while federal government funding for coronavirus aid ends in December, FEMA's 75% reimbursement won't be dropped anytime soon.
Sometimes it comes down to connecting the homeless with shelter, work, medical care and social services in order to find them on time, and the hotels have been of great help, according to proponents. They say the hotel residents thrived with regular checkups and meals.
"If this were taken away from us at this point, it would really be like pulling a carpet out from under us in a really important way," said hotel resident Nicholas Garrett, who appeared with San Francisco regulators.
Dr. Danielle Alkov spoke of one of her patients, a transgender woman who blossomed after being brought into the house. However, your hotel should be among the first to close.
"She is successful, she works in medical care, she is probably thinking very forward-looking for the first time in a long time and thinking about her career goals, her educational goals," said Alkov. "The idea of ​​her not having a stable place and losing all the advances she's made would be devastating."
In Los Angeles, the Homeless Services Authority said that nearly 600 people have moved from hotel rooms to temporary accommodation, and another 62 have moved to permanent housing. About 3,400 people are staying in hotel rooms, and although the agency has received funding from the city to renew leases at several hotels, it will continue to move people to other homes, spokesman Christopher Yee said.
Alameda County, which also includes Oakland, is hoping to use government funds to provide rental subsidies and renew hotel room leases, but continues to plan to close five out of nine hotels between December and February. Over 1,000 people are in hotels there.
It is much cheaper to use the money "on permanent housing with leases than to continue the hotel program indefinitely," said Kerry Abbott, director of the county homeless care and coordination office. And while some people have chosen to return to shelter, "our goal is to make sure everyone has an offer of housing. Most people will take an offer of housing."
The hotels won't go away entirely. Abbott said the county plans to operate a 98-room quarantine and isolation hotel for six months next year and keep an additional 240 hotel rooms open to residents who need additional care by 2021.
By the end of the year, Sacramento County plans to shut down trailers that house 46 people who are either recovering from the virus or awaiting test results. But county spokeswoman Janna Haynes said the shelter hotels will stay open until early next year and no one will be forced to go without a place to go.
Although the program is ending, Alameda County's Abbott says people have benefited deeply and some are able to address issues that have kept them away from stable housing.
"Many people have been inside and stayed inside for the first time in a decade or more and have benefited from the shelter, the services and the food and even the community that our providers have established," she said.
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