SAN FRANCISCO—On Friday, October 23, the Office of Governor Gavin Newsom announced the Joint Legislative Budget Committee’s approval of his request for $200 million in Coronavirus Relief Funding for Project Homekey, launched by Newsom in partnership with the Episcopal Community Services of San Francisco (ECS) to ensure the safety and health of individuals experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic. The announcement was made during Newsom’s visit to an Emergency Interim Housing Community in San Jose.

The program essentially enables the state of California to purchase and convert buildings such as hotels and vacant apartment complexes into homeless housing. With the new funding, the program now reaches $800 total and provides housing in eight hotels for around 1,000 people. With these numbers, the state is able to clear most of Homekey’s waiting list, which included Hotel Diva, a three-star lodge near Union Square, along with five other projects by five applicants. As of now, Homekey has awarded over $709 million to 45 applicants and 78 projects. This totals 5,068 units, which on average cost $139,000, “well below the average cost in California to build new housing units,” reports Newsom’s Office.

According to the ECS, Homekey, “focuses on social distancing as health,” through the provision of hotel rooms amidst the closure of nearly all shelters in San Francisco. Such individuals now have access to hotel rooms with personal bathrooms, three meals a day, and access to support services. 

Newsom Tweeted the statistic that one out of five homeless individuals in California has been served by Project Roomkey,” also founded by Newsom in partnership with ECS, which is a parental program to Homekey. It has provided housing for 22,300 people in San Francisco within six months. Newsom states, “Project Homekey is a model for the nation.” 

Data SF reports that 3,449 total alternative housing units are active and 6,468 individuals, previously discharged from housing due to COVID-19, in alternative housing. Of these people, those who are experiencing homelessness and present a particular susceptibility to COVID-19, which are those over 60 or with health conditions, are staying in hotels, aided by Homekey. Others who do not meet the criteria for the label “COVID-vulnerable” are staying in alternative housing. There is additionally alternative housing provided for San Franciscans who have been diagnosed with or are recovering from COVID-19 and are without a safe space to safely isolate or quarantine, or shelter in place.