Mayor Jesse Arreguín announced Thursday that the city of Berkeley has reached a deal with La Quinta Inn to provide rooms for the homeless population during the COVID-19 pandemic.
La Quinta Inn will provide 113 beds at its 920 University Ave. location to individuals experiencing homelessness. The deal is part of an effort to provide them with a safe environment that enables proper social distancing measures during the pandemic, according to a city press release. The hotel is expected to be occupied by early May.
“Our homeless population is at increased risk of exposure and transmission, and that poses a threat to us all,” Arreguín said in the press release. “Prior to the pandemic homelessness was a humanitarian crisis that required bold solutions across the region. Coronavirus has amplified that crisis, exposed the service gap, and subjected our most vulnerable populations to risks that are simply unacceptable.”
The deal comes after California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement of Project Roomkey, a statewide initiative to secure hotel and motel rooms for individuals experiencing homelessness during the pandemic.
The La Quinta Inn will operate under the name “North County Safer Ground” and will be occupied by homeless individuals in Alameda County, with an emphasis on those from Berkeley, according to the press release. Alameda County will lease and pay for the hotel, while the city will support operations and medical intake.
The city has currently given 46 “vulnerable community members” access to other hotel accommodations, according to the press release. As of press time, 31 have moved in.
City Councilmember Rigel Robinson said in an email that city officials have quickly reacted to ensure that the unhoused population is protected during the pandemic.
“Staffing up a hotel to house the homeless is an enormous lift, but our city team has moved swiftly to make this project a reality,” Robinson said in the email. “To fight the virus we need as many people as possible to shelter-in-place and socially distance, a task that is almost impossible when you’re living on the street. Much gratitude to La Quinta for opening their doors in this time of crisis.”