Sheltering the Homeless Key to Stopping Spread of the Coronavirus
The County of San Mateo adds needed temporary housing, services for vulnerable population
A Peninsula hotel now serves as the temporary home for homeless people as the County of San Mateo seeks to prevent a surge in coronavirus cases among a community at higher risk from the deadly virus.
“We – and I mean all of us – are facing an unprecedented public health emergency,” said Ken Cole, director of the County’s Human Services Agency, which oversees its efforts to end homelessness. “We have an obligation to help the most vulnerable members of our community and, at the same time, do all we can to contain the spread of the coronavirus.”
The County has secured at least 60 rooms at what is being called Bayfront Station as temporary housing for homeless individuals who have no home to shelter in place. This is the first hotel to open for this purpose in San Mateo County and is a result of a collaboration between the County, the hotel owner and Samaritan House, which operates the site under contract with the County.
To be eligible for emergency temporary housing, individuals must meet eligibility criteria – walk-ins are strictly not allowed – and accept an offer of shelter. Individuals must contact one of eight Core Service Agencies in San Mateo County that, under contract with the County, provide emergency safety net assistance. The individuals will be assessed and may be sheltered at Bayfront Station, or another homeless shelter program.
County Manager Mike Callagy has committed to housing all homeless individuals willing to accept shelter.
In response to the coronavirus, the County activated its Emergency Operations Center, or EOC, on March 2 to coordinate countywide preparation, communications and response. The County Health Officer’s order to shelter in place as of March 17 added fresh urgency to find temporary housing.
The local effort is part of a statewide initiative to protect individuals and communities from COVID-19 called Project Roomkey. Through Project Roomkey, local governments are eligible for reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for hotel and motel rooms as well as meals, security, laundry and other services.
“The Human Services Agency, in full coordination with the County’s EOC and Samaritan House, have quickly organized and opened up the temporary hotel beds to add capacity for our homeless residents,” Cole said. “HSA is committed to serving our most at-risk population during the Shelter in Place order.”
Project Roomkey is one of numerous countywide initiatives to support vulnerable residents during the shelter in place and increase temporary housing capacity. These efforts include:
Expanding 20 shelter beds by adding additional trailers at Maple Street Shelter in Redwood City.
Expanding 10 shelter beds at WeHope Shelter in East Palo Alto.
Sheltering 77 homeless clients at other hotels in order to implement social distancing at current shelters.
“This partnership with Samaritan House and the hotel owner will add needed temporarily shelter beds in our total inventory,” Cole said. “We are grateful of this partnership and HSA is committed to serving San Mateo County’s homeless residents.”