Alameda County has started offering emergency isolation housing for homeless individuals who have tested positive for or are at high risk of contracting COVID-19.
This initiative is a part of Project Roomkey, the larger statewide effort that secures hotel and motel rooms for people experiencing homelessness during the pandemic, according to the Alameda County Public Health Department’s website. On March 18, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the $150 million investment, the majority of which has been approved to be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a federal cost-share.
“By helping the most vulnerable homeless individuals off the street and into isolation, California can slow the spread of COVID-19 through homeless populations, lower the number of people infected and protect critical health care resources,” Newsom said in an April 3 press release. “We’re working hard with our county partners to get these hotels up and running as rapidly as possible.”
Alameda County has secured a total of 393 rooms at two Oakland hotel locations on Edes Avenue. One is referenced as “Operation Comfort,” which has 104 rooms, and the other location, referenced as “Operation Safer Ground,” has 289 rooms.
According to a county statement regarding COVID-19 hotel resources, Operation Comfort serves unhoused individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19, are experiencing symptoms or have been exposed to the disease.
Operation Safer Ground, according to the statement, is specialized for individuals who are experiencing homelessness and are over the age of 65, or otherwise are at high risk of COVID-19 due to other medical conditions.
The statement added that the county has also worked to establish medical and support services, referral programs and transportation resources for the sites.
The Berkeley Food and Housing Project, or BFHP, has acted as a referral operator to connect unhoused individuals who qualify for COVID-19 emergency housing with Operation Comfort.
According to BFHP executive director Calleene Egan, the organization has distributed fliers within Albany and Emeryville with a hotline number to receive COVID-19 emergency housing. BFHP also provides transportation to the hotels through taxi services or by identifying public transit options.
“We appreciate all of the cities, agencies and individuals collaboratively working with us to get this response in place,” the county’s statement reads.
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the Berkeley Food and Housing Project had been passing out fliers in Berkeley. In fact, BFHP had been passing out fliers in Emeryville and Albany.