KEY POINTS

  • Over 14,000 of California's homeless population have been housed in hotels and motels since the Project Roomkey initiative began in April
  • Rooms in over 300 hotels and motels across California have been provided to homeless who have tested positive for coronavirus, been exposed to coronavirus, or are fall into a high-risk group
  • Another $550 million of the state's budget has been set aside for local officials to acquire more housing for homeless as the number of coronavirus cases in California continue to rise

As part of the state’s efforts to curb the recent surge of coronavirus cases, California has been moving a large portion of its homeless population in hotels and motels across the state. Gov. Gavin Newsom said as of Wednesday there are over 14,000 homeless people off the street since the plan went into effect in April.

California has over 232,000 confirmed cases and nearly 6,100 deaths from COVID-19.

The ongoing relocation effort is part of the Project Roomkey initiative, which secured 15,670 rooms to house the homeless during the pandemic. It has provided isolated housing for anyone who tested positive for coronavirus, has been exposed to the virus, or fall into a high-risk group due to age or existing medical conditions.

Over 300 hotels and motels were providing rooms across California as part of Project Roomkey.

“I couldn’t be more proud of an effort just in a few months to get 14,200 individuals off the streets, out of encampments and into units like this,” Newsom said at a press conference Tuesday. The conference was held in front of a motel in Pittsburg, California, which is housing over 160 homeless.

The California governor was interrupted at times by protesters playing drums and shouting “you don’t care about the homeless,” arguing he has not done enough to help the homeless during the pandemic.

Newsom said Project Roomkey will continue for the foreseeable future. Around $550 million of the state budget approved Monday set aside to help local officials buy hotels, motels, apartments, and other locations to serve as long-term housing for the state’s homeless during the pandemic. An additional $50 million will be provided so local officials can provide services like meals and checkups, while $300 million of the budget will provide general support for the homeless residents.

While questions remain about how the state will proceed after the pandemic has passed, Newsom’s efforts have been lauded by some local officials.

“California’s big cities feel the crisis of homelessness most acutely,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said in a statement. “In unprecedented and uncertain times, we are grateful for the strong commitment of our state elected leaders to supporting cities on the front line working to end homelessness and human suffering.”

A homeless man sits in front of closed bars and restaurants in Hermosa Beach, California, during the pandemic on March 21, 2020 A homeless man sits in front of closed bars and restaurants in Hermosa Beach, California, during the pandemic on March 21, 2020 Photo: AFP / Apu GOMES