Note: This thread is related to #Coronavirus #COVID19

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Alissa Walker+ Your Authors @awalkerinLA I'm a writer, a gelato-eater, and a walker in LA. Urbanism editor @Curbed. Co-host @theLApod. Contributor @KCRW. More 👧🏼👶🏼 and 🚲🚶🏼‍♀️🚍 on Instagram. Apr. 23, 2020 2 min read + Your Authors

You may have heard about Project Roomkey, California's effort to house homeless residents in empty hotel rooms to prevent them from contracting COVID-19.

But for this to work, it needs to happen quickly—and right now it's not happening fast enough. 

Why does this need to happen fast? Experts say people who are homeless are getting sicker from COVID-19 than people who have homes.

For every person you house, you're avoiding hospitalizations and deaths—and it's a lot cheaper than paying for an ICU bed. 

What about shelters? They're not an ideal solution in non-pandemic times, but shared living spaces introduce additional risks for transmitting infectious diseases, even if precautions are taken.

There have now been major outbreaks in LA and SF shelters. 

Project Roomkey’s goal is to fill 15,000 rooms. Right now, about a third of those rooms are filled.

LA and SF have set their own room goals, which, if filled, could get the statewide number closer to 45,000.

California has 150,000 homeless residents. 

The homeless service providers know exactly who needs to get into these rooms. They use a data-tracking tool that can prioritize for vulnerability using metrics like age and medical history.

That's how 72-year-old Joe got a room earlier this month. 

On the hotel side, it's more challenging. Cities and counties must locate hotel owners who want to participate, then negotiate deals for 90-day leases.

Now homeowners, and some city officials, are trying to block hotels from housing homeless residents. 

To speed up the process, and avoid NIMBY fights, California's governor, as well as many mayors, could use their emergency powers to commandeer the hotels.

As @shaylarmyers notes, it’s not any more radical than the stay at home orders we’re already under. 

Getting California's homeless residents into rooms would also lead to better housing outcomes after the pandemic is over, says @cherring_soc.

"Use the hotel as a pause to get people safe and see if we can meet their needs better than we could before." 

Two additional things I learned.

I talked to people who believe they're eligible for rooms but there's no public-facing information on the Project Roomkey program for them.

LA, for example, has this page—but it's for hotel owners. 

I question the cost-effectiveness of building emergency shelters to house a few hundred people, which require huge logistical and staffing lifts—and still carry risk.

We could achieve the same goal faster by using the facilities and systems that hotels already have in place.

You can follow @awalkerinLA.


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