The Board of Supervisors authorized up to $1 million for Project Roomkey on August 18, a project that found permanent housing for 30 of its homeless participants, nine of whom now live at the city Housing Authority's Gardens on Hope apartments. | Credit: Courtesy Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara

The County of Santa Barbara has added $900,000 to its Project Roomkey efforts to house homeless people in motels temporarily. A contract with the Santa Barbara Hotel Group for the project, which started up in April, was approved by the County Board of Supervisors, as was an additional $111,000 to PATH Santa Barbara for managing the program and its participants. The program participants must be either 65 years old or older or have a chronic medical condition, and among the approximately 1,897 people who are without a home in Santa Barbara County, they are considered the most vulnerable to COVID-19.

The benefits have spread into the community, as the program has become a stepping-stone to permanent housing, said Ryder Bailey of the county’s Community Services Department. The emergency motel program has enabled outreach workers to consistently find and help their clients, who previously spent their day walking from place to place for food and shelter. As well, the city Housing Authority’s Gardens on Hope senior housing project opened its doors in April, providing permanent homes for nine of the Roomkey participants. A total of 30 people have exited the Project Roomkey to permanent homes, Community Services Director George Chapjian told the supervisors on Tuesday.

Altogether, 60 motel rooms are now part of the program, which is housing 56 individuals currently in the City of Santa Barbara. Chapjian said his department had searched for motels in North County, too, but none were willing to participate.

The funding for the program comes in part from the State of California — $400,000 of the total, Bailey said. The remainder comes through CARES Act funding, and costs are also reimbursable by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

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