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The continuing saga of Project Roomkey

Updated: Jan 20, 2022

On any given night it’s estimated that there are 5,500 people sleeping outdoors in Sacramento County.

Thanks to community organizers and city/county support, 500 of our community members experiencing homelessness will now have the option to stay indoors through Project Roomkey until August. In March 2020 the state started Project Roomkey as a relief program during the pandemic. Their website describes that the purpose is “to provide non-congregate shelter options for people experiencing homelessness, protect human life, and minimize strain on health care system capacity.”

State and local agencies have come together to use federal dollars to support the hospitality industry and to help people living outdoors to safely quarantine during COVID-19 by renting out motel rooms. While there have been reports of misuse of funds, mistreatment of those in the program, and sub-par living conditions, the program itself is considered to be fairly successful. As COVID restrictions lift, so far, the motels have been happy to keep contracting with the city to keep their rooms filled.

While the program was never intended to provide long term housing, Phil Serna commented “The last thing any of us want to do is ramp down a fairly successful program. I think it would be a tragedy if they left Roomkey and went back to living on the streets.” Darrell Steinberg also wrote a letter asking the County to keep the program running.

The County was only reimbursed for 43% of the costs, even though they expected more. Although Project Roomkey is supposed to include wrap around services, at $4,000 per room/per month some argue that there are more cost effective ways to provide housing.

As we reopen the need for permanent housing will continue to be an ongoing issue.

But, for now, we’re all taking a collective sigh of relief for the next few months while we figure out how to provide that.

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