Gov. Newsom announces "Project Roomkey" to get homeless out of shelters, into hotels during COVID-19 outbreak

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- During his Friday briefing, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a partnership with FEMA and counties up and down California that will provide 15,000 hotel rooms for homeless who are at risk of contracting COVID-19.

Newsom said the state has secured just under 7,000 hotel rooms with occupancy agreements where homeless people can go, with FEMA set to provide 75% reimbursement of costs as long as the state and counties stay within guidelines. He also said California is the first state to secure approval from FEMA on a venture like this.

The city of Fresno is currently working to secure a location with 200+ beds as part of the program. The city had already housed 306 homeless before Newsom's announcement, according to officials, and will be receiving 28 trailers from the state to help.

The goal of the program is to get homeless out of shared shelter space and into their own room in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.

"By helping the most vulnerable homeless individuals off the street and into isolation, California can slow the spread of COVID-19 through homeless populations, lower the number of people infected and protect critical health care resources. We're working hard with our county partners to get these hotels up and running as rapidly as possible," Newsom said.

Homeless who have been exposed to the virus and are deemed high-risk, such as seniors living on the street, would fit the guideline set forth by FEMA, Newsom said.

The governor also said that they hope to secure a total of 15,000 rooms in phase one of the program, adding that hundreds of homeless are off the street already.

World Central Kitchen from Chef José Andrés will be providing meals to the homeless in some of the hotels, Newsom said. Individual counties and community groups will also provide behavioral health and health care services.
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