SANTA ANA (CBSLA) – An Orange County Superior Court judge has rejected an effort to prevent a Laguna Hills hotel from housing homeless coronavirus patients.
Earlier this month, Orange County signed a three-month contract with the 76-room Laguna Hills Inn to house COVID-19 patients.
It is all part of Project Roomkey, a statewide California 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.
Laguna Hills Mayor Janine Heft, along with area businesses, filed a lawsuit against the plan last week, claiming a quarter of the city’s population is over the age of 65, putting them at risk..
However, the judge Monday rejected a request for a temporary restraining order against the hotel’s deal with the county.
“It’s not a secure facility,” Heft told CBS2 last week. “If you look at it, you’ve got a lot of places where they can walk out and that’s one of our concerns. If they want to leave, you know, who’s gonna forcibly keep them there?”
Kevin Akash, president of the hotel owner, Elite Hospitality Inc., said in court papers that he is “proud to work with the county of Orange” on Project Roomkey.
“Elite agreed to participate in Project Roomkey because it was the right thing to do,” Akash said. “We want to do everything we can to help our community during this time of crisis. By providing temporary lodging to those in need, we will allow them to isolate, stem the spread of the COVID-19 and lessen the impact on local hospitals and on our community as a whole.”
In the O.C. community of Laguna Woods, the Ayres Hotel earlier this month was forced to back out of a plan to house homeless individuals who either test positive for coronavirus or are showing symptoms following protest from a nearby retirement community.
The Los Angeles County cities of Lawndale and Bell Gardens are also considering legal action to try and stop local hotels from being used to house the homeless as part of Project Roomkey. That prompted attorneys for L.A. County Friday to request an emergency hearing.
The Covina City Council also held a special meeting Friday to debate whether to try and halt an effort to use one of its local hotels.