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In an effort to get people off the streets and out of shelters during the coronavirus pandemic, the state has moved 14,200 homeless Californians into hotels and motels since April, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday.

The state has secured 15,679 rooms as part of its Project Roomkey initiative, surpassing the 15,000 goal originally set by the governor. Those rooms are set aside for unhoused residents who either test positive for COVID-19, are experiencing symptoms of the virus, or may be more susceptible to the virus because of their age or underlying medical conditions.

“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 into units like this,” Newsom said, standing in front of a Pittsburg motel currently sheltering 164 homeless people.

Of the rooms set aside for asymptomatic people throughout the state, 85% have been filled, Newsom said.

The program has had more than 15,000 hotel and motel rooms leased since mid-April, but it has taken county governments some time to fill them. On April 18, out of about 11,000 rooms that were ready at that time, just 38% had been filled.

County governments handle the logistics of the program, including leasing the rooms, moving people in and providing services like meals. As long as the rooms house people who have COVID-19 or are especially vulnerable to the virus, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse county governments for 75% of the costs.

Questions remain about what will happen to people living in these hotels and motels once the pandemic ends and tourists return to the rooms. But the budget Newsom signed Monday includes $550 million to help local governments buy the hotels and motels, and turn them into more permanent housing for the homeless. It also includes $350 million to help local governments provide services for their homeless residents.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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Author: Marisa Kendall

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