LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved a motion that calls on officials to put together a plan that would provide some kind of more permanent housing to homeless seniors after the coronavirus pandemic subsides.
It hopes to build on Project Roomkey, a statewide initiative in partnership with FEMA which launched earlier this month to temporarily house homeless people in available hotel and motel rooms in order to curb the spread of COVID-19. State and local governments are then reimbursed by FEMA for up to 75 percent for the cost of those rooms.
The motion, which was proposed by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Janice Hahn, calls on county officials to develop a pilot program that would keep homeless people over the age of 65 in permanent housing post-COVID-19.
“We’re using unprecedented resources to bring people off the streets and indoors during this pandemic,” Janice Hahn said in a statement Tuesday. “This is the level of urgency that the homeless crisis has demanded for years and when the day comes that this pandemic is behind us, we need to ensure that we can take advantage of the progress we have made and make sure that the people we have found shelter do not end up back on the streets.”
As of Monday, L.A County has procured 1,946 beds at 23 sites for Project Roomkey, of which 515 beds are already in use, Ridley-Thomas said. L.A. County is attempting to secure up to 15,000 hotel rooms through the project.
The motion calls for the L.A. County CEO to put together a plan within 30 days and a longer-range plan within 45 days “ to ensure options to all homeless older adults aged 65 and older who are willing to receive housing and services.”
In 2019, the number of homeless people in L.A. County was just under 59,000, a 12 percent increase from the prior year. There were 36,300 homeless people in the city of L.A. in 2019, a staggering 16 percent increase from the year before.
With the fear of a COVID-19 outbreak among the homeless population, over the past month, L.A. has turned 21 recreation centers into emergency shelters across the city. The city and county have also deployed hand-washing stations and portable toilets at several encampments.