$800M coronavirus recovery plan would provide temporary housing to 15,000 homeless individuals

An $800 million plan was unveiled Tuesday to house 15,000 homeless people in Los Angeles County who are considered most vulnerable to the coronavirus.

The county’s Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority presented a three-year COVID-19 recovery plan to the county Board of Supervisors to provide temporary housing with a goal of eventually finding permanent places to live for those on the streets.

The money was expected to come mainly from government funding but details would need to be worked out. The U.S., California and local economies have been hammered by the impact of month-long lockdowns and business shutdowns aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19.

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In April, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Project Roomkey, a mainly federally funded program to provide the capacity to house and, if necessary, isolate people on the street who were most at risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 because of their age or existing health problems.

The county aimed to provide for 15,000 people but managed to house about 6,000, including 4,000 who were placed in leased hotel rooms. But some of those leases expire next month.

The new proposal would provide various housing measures, including rental subsidies, through next June along with various services. Over the next two years, efforts would be made to move people into permanent housing.

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“These are our parents and grandparents, our neighbors with disabilities and chronic conditions — we must not let them down,” LAHSA Commission Chair Sarah Dusseault said. “Anything short of housing the 15,000 most vulnerable people experiencing homelessness puts this population, already so exposed, at risk of a COVID-19 outbreak. We can’t let that happen.”

“This is about saving lives. We are not backing away from that number,” LAHSA Executive Director Heidi Marston said. “We know how to house them. We need the resources from the city, county, state and federal government to do it.”

The plan calls for $200 million from existing homeless programs and another $600 million in new funding. The Board of Supervisors hasn’t specified funding for such a plan.

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The region has been struggling to deal with a surging homelessness problem. A January count by LAHSA reported that there were more than 66,400 homeless people living in Los Angeles County — by far the largest single concentration in the state. That was up more than 12% from the previous year.

Last week, a federal judge approved an agreement in which the city and county of Los Angeles will provide housing for almost 7,000 homeless people who live near freeways and those over 65 or vulnerable to COVID-19.

The city agreed to provide 6,000 new beds within 10 months and another 700 beds over 18 months while the county spends $300 million over five years to fund services for the people.

It wasn’t clear how that agreement fit into LAHSA’s long-term housing proposal.

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