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Ending Project Roomkey means throwing folx back out onto the streets

Updated: Apr 5, 2022

In February of 2022, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors made the ill-informed and inhumane decision to begin the closure of the Project Roomkey (PRK) shelter program. The reason being given for the closure is the fact that the funding for the project provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is set to run out. FEMA had taken over funding the program from the California State government.

Why is funding set to expire?

Because COVID isn't a problem anymore, obviously. Or, as stated in a news release (linked here) from the County:

With state and federal funding running out, the threat of COVID-19 waning due to increased vaccination rates and lower transmission rates, Sacramento County and its many partners are ramping down the prevention and isolation units and working closely with community providers to transition PRK participants into long-term housing solutions.

So, basically what they're saying is that COVID is no longer a serious enough threat to our unhoused community to justify housing them, and they should therefore be dumped back onto the streets. The County also has not demonstrated any indication that they have a plan for the "long-term housing solutions" mentioned above.

What is Project Roomkey again?

You can find a link to our previous article on this subject here. A brief summary from that article can be found below:

Some background on Project Roomkey:

  • Motels are leased using COVID relief funding to provide private rooms, three daily meals, health services and community resources offered by staff that are on-site 24 hours a day

  • They currently have three motels, with a total of 391 rooms available. The average length of stay is 7.5 months.

As of January of 2022, 425 individuals have exited Project Roomkey to stable housing.

As of January 19th 2022,1,735 individuals and 773 people in isolation, have been housed through Roomkey.

What does the community have to say?

On March 7th, along with a coalition of local housing advocates, the California COVID Justice program (housed within Public Health Advocates), penned a letter to the Sac County BOS demanding (amongst other things) that the County allocate $25 million of ARPA funding towards pursuing long-terms solutions to the housing crisis in our area. The letter was signed by 13 local organizations, and 167 community members.

*You can find the letter linked here

The following text is pulled from the letter mentioned above:

The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors has an opportunity to save hundreds of lives now by redirecting its $25 million in ARPA funding to sustain Project Roomkey and the SERA program. Future funding decisions can be improved by using data-mapping tools in conjunction with qualitative data from community listening sessions.

What this breaks down to is this:

1) The County can easily continue funding Project Roomkey - which has successfully housed 174 people - by moving the $5 million in ARPA funding allocated to each Supervisor's district into a lump fund of $25 million. If we're really as dedicated to funding programs that WILL help folx move towards long-term housing as we say we are, then why wouldn't we continue to support Project Roomkey?

2) County leadership ALSO needs to implement equitable methods of distributing ARPA funding, so that money is being provided to the people and programs that have been most detrimentally impacted by the pandemic. This is CRITICAL considering the County's history of misallocating COVID relief funding and failing those in our community who are most in need of support and relief.

*you can find many articles on the County's misguided approach to utilizing ARPA funds linked in the Participatory and Equitable budgets page of our website.

Advocates named two model programs for disbursing funds in this manner:

Follow the links to learn more!

You can see advocates Mason Taylor (California COVID Justice) and Niki Jones (Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee) speak on demands made in the letter here.

Supervisors did not respond to the DOZENS of public comments made in support of Project Roomkey or about the lack of transparency we have seen in ARPA County funding distribution decisions. Because they made no further decisions, the original plan to shut down PRK will continue. As of now one motel has already closed.

Check out some awesome public comments in the video below!

Hopefully more information on PRK developments will come to light as advocates continue to meet with individual Supervisors. Let's all make sure we keep putting pressure on the BOS to do the right thing!



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