Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters


The case for commandeering hotel rooms: San Francisco has a model to house the homeless during COVID-19 pandemic


Gov. Gavin Newsom announced last month that he would commit $150 million to addressing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic. Project RoomKey, in collaboration with local efforts, aims to shelter 50,000 of the state’s more than 150,000 homeless people in hotels. 

No other state has put forward such an extensive program. And yet, this remains inadequate and reactive in a crisis that requires proactive measures.

Newsom’s approach will leave more than 100,000 of those currently homeless, plus tens of thousands who may lose housing in the downturn, to the unsanitary streets and dense shelters — environments public health experts say are ripe for transmission of the coronavirus. Worse yet, the majority of the 50,000 will first have to contract and survive COVID-19 before being placed in a hotel.

Rather than waiting for people to test positive, we must get ahead of the curve and place all unhoused Californians in hotels or comparable units through the duration of the crisis. One city has developed just such a plan...

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