DAVIS, Calif. (KTXL) — No place was more prepared for Governor Gavin Newsom’s Project Roomkey initiative than Yolo County and that’s because the value of such a program was already known to advocates in the area.
Several years ago, Yolo County learned the valuable lesson from its own efforts to house homeless people in a West Sacramento motel in order to give them targeted services. So, when the governor’s program to do the same was announced, they were able to move quickly.
“As of yesterday, I think we were up to 218 people,” said Davis homeless coordinator Ryan Collins.
That’s about a third of the county’s homeless population.
Still, the overarching goal of this program is not to reduce homelessness but to relieve hospitals of any added pressure. With fewer patients, hospitals can focus on housing vulnerable patients or those recovering from COVID-19.
Yolo County says 246 rooms at eight hotels have been secured countywide, including some in Davis. The rooms will accommodate more than person, but that doesn’t mean everyone will be getting a room.
“Sixty-five plus or people who have a lot of complicated health needs that put them at particular risk,” said Collins.
Those who at more at-risk will get medical check-ups, food, counseling and long-term housing assistance, often with the help of nonprofit providers.
Once homeless clients realize that food, shelter, bathrooms and safety are no longer an hour by hour concern, they can turn their attention to getting away from homelessness.
“You undergo like, literally, a psychological and physiological shift toward being able to think about things other than meeting those primary needs, which are so often unmet,” said Collins.
It’s not a cheap solution. A bargain basement rate of $60 a night equates to $1,800 a month. Once the emergency is over some hope cheaper options like tiny shelters and sheds will also enable the homeless to chart a different future.
“Even if that’s four walls in whatever form that takes, that might allow us to take more of a bite out of homelessness going forward,” said Collins.
Yolo County will foot some of the costs and hopes to get some reimbursement from the state along with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.