Santa Barbara County to Quarantine More Homeless People After Biden’s Order

Project Roomkey Gets Expansion from Feds

Tent and debris from the growing homeless encampment in Anisq Oyo park in Isla Vista. | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss (file)

Santa Barbara County’s Project Roomkey — a quarantine housing program for homeless people vulnerable to COVID-19 — got an upgrade last month when President Biden signed an executive order directing the federal government to fully reimburse cities and counties for the cost of housing homeless people in hotels. 

The county currently operates Project Roomkey and other non-congregate shelter programs at four hotels. More than 20,000 shelter-bed nights have been provided through local Roomkey efforts during the pandemic so far. Up until Biden’s order, the federal government had been covering 75 percent of those costs.

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The Community Services Department, in partnership with PATH, operates the hotel in South County, known as Roomkey South, for people 65 and older and who have been verified by a medical provider as being at increased risk of medical complications from COVID-19. The hotel has served 154 people since April 20, 2020. It currently has 30 rooms occupied, but that is being raised to 45 in response to Biden’s order.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency does not cover all costs associated with Project Roomkey. For example, it doesn’t cover case management. The county has received state funds to assist with rehousing guests and other uncovered costs so far. 

Because of the new order, the county is planning to operate the Roomkey South site until later in 2021. 

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