EPA Today

EPA Today Announcements and Events

EPA Today News Briefs page

Community TV News Show

Treasured Memories Obituaries























































































































































































By Eva Barrows                                               Follow East Palo Alto Today on
November 27, 2020                                 Facebook        Twitter         Blog              
                                                               EPA Today Facebook page Follow epatoday on Twitter EPA Today Blog Icon



Photo courtesy of https://www.smcgov.org/covid-19-housing-and-homelessness 


California’s ongoing housing crisis, combined with the financial fall out of the COVID-19 pandemic, have increased housing insecurity for vulnerable residents. On October 29, 2020, the state awarded San Mateo County $33 million in Project Homekey funding to purchase permanent housing units for low-income seniors and the homeless.

The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors held a special meeting on November 5, 2020, to formally accept the $33 million. The county is finalizing the purchase of two Redwood City hotels, which will provide a combined 170 rooms of long-term housing. The 75-room Pacific Inn location will house COVID-19 vulnerable homeless individuals while providing services to help them find permanent housing. The 95-room TownePlace Suites Hotel location in Redwood Shores will serve as permanent housing for extremely low-income seniors 62 years and over.

During a November 4, 2020, press briefing County Manager Mike Callagy spoke about the TownePlace senior housing units. “Each unit has its own kitchen and will immediately be permanent housing for seniors. Here we have almost a turnkey operation that will serve our seniors in this community.” 

Project Homekey grew out of the state’s emergency response to house the homeless at the start of the pandemic, Project Roomkey. Roomkey made social distancing at homeless shelters possible, helping stop the spread of COVID-19. It also facilitated expanded capacity at shelters, implementing new health protocols, and access to alternative shelter locations. With Project Roomkey funding, San Mateo County is leasing around 170 hotel rooms serving about 182 medically at-risk homeless individuals. 

The state has initiated Project Homekey as a permanent housing solution for residents experiencing or at risk of becoming homeless. The program aims to quickly acquire motels and other housing properties across the state. The need to rapidly purchase properties is motivated by the dual goals of protecting people from becoming infected with COVID-19 and meeting the end of the year federal CARES act expenditure deadline. 

County Manager Mike Callagy talked about the transition from Project Roomkey to Project Homekey at the press briefing. “It’s costing the county almost a million dollars a month to house the homeless. It is money well spent though. Many of these seniors are vulnerable and would be highly susceptible to COVID-19 in a congregate setting. And that is why the strategy of trying to buy hotels is so important. It is actually less expensive for us to purchase these hotels and permanently have those locations for folks.” 

Residents living near the TownePlace Suites Hotel voiced their concerns about the hotel’s expedited purchase during the public comment session of the Board of Supervisors meeting. Many residents received short notice of the county’s plan to buy the hotel to house low-income seniors. Residents cited issues like the lack of public transportation and services catering to low-income seniors as potential location drawbacks. The board acknowledged the expedited time frame to secure the funding and their commitment to answering the community’s concerns. It was clarified that a nonprofit service provider would run the TownePlace location and provide residents with the services they require. 

“What we’re looking at is giving people a permanent home,” Supervisor David Canepa said. “I’m passionate about making sure we give the appropriate housing and dignity to people who deserve it in their time of need.”


 Eva Barrows contributes articles of special interest to East Palo Alto Today.