San Jose, Pittsburg housing initiatives amongst first to win coveted state ‘Homekey’ funds – The Mercury Information
San Jose and Contra Costa County landed state funding to turn two motels into long-term homeless housing Wednesday — making them among the first in California to score the highly competitive aid.
The grants are part of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s “Project Homekey,” which promises $600 million to help California cities and counties convert hotels, motels, apartments and other buildings into homeless housing. The governor’s office awarded $76.5 million of that pot Wednesday, in its first round of funding. The winning applications, which will create a total of 579 new units of housing when finished, also include projects in Mendocino and Kern counties, and the cities of El Centro, South Lake Tahoe and Lake Elsinore.
“We are realizing our dream of helping local jurisdictions acquire thousands of motel rooms and convert them into housing for individuals and families experiencing homelessness,” Newsom wrote in a news release. “Homekey is the first effort of its kind in the nation and is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to protect the most vulnerable people in our state.”
The efforts were galvanized by the coronavirus pandemic, which has spurred state and local officials to house as many homeless residents as possible to prevent them from catching the virus.
In April, Newsom launched Homekey’s precursor — Project Roomkey — a program that provided federal funds to counties setting up hotel and motel rooms as temporary housing during the pandemic. Project Homekey is the next step in that process. The goal is to convert some of those hotels and other buildings into long-term housing that will outlast the pandemic. Supporters are trying to make sure homeless residents currently sheltering in hotels don’t land back on the streets once coronavirus abates.
One of San Jose’s temporary Project Roomkey sites was among those chosen Wednesday for additional state funding. The city will receive $14.5 million to help it buy the 76-unit motel and turn it into permanent housing. The city declined to release any more details about the motel.
“I am grateful to Governor Newsom for his steadfast commitment in our fight to end homelessness,” Mayor Sam Liccardo wrote in a news release. “In 2016, we launched an effort to renovate two deteriorating motels to provide transitional solutions for our unhoused residents. With the help of Homekey, we can expand our efforts to transition our most vulnerable residents to permanent housing.”
One other Bay Area site was chosen in the first round of funding: A 176-room Motel 6 in Pittsburg. The motel, which also has been used as a temporary pandemic shelter, was the site of Newsom’s June news conference launching Project Homekey.
Contra Costa County will receive $17.4 million to help it buy and renovate the motel, plus an additional $4.17 million to offset the cost of staffing and operating the building as interim housing for homeless residents. Once it’s up and running, the location will provide on-site healthcare, behavioral health services, meals and caseworkers to help residents find permanent housing.
“This is a great start toward building the services and resources East County needs to address homelessness,” Contra Costa Supervisor Federal Glover, whose district includes the site, wrote in a news release. “There is a critical need for this project in our community.”
As of January, there were just 20 shelter beds available for more than 500 homeless residents in East Contra Costa County. The county is renting nearly 500 rooms for homeless residents who have COVID-19 or are particularly vulnerable to the virus.
Mendocino County also received $9.7 million for a 56-unit project that will be half interim housing and half permanent housing. The county currently has just 50 year-round shelter beds, and no permanent housing reserved for homeless residents.
As the state continues to dole out Project Homekey funding, many applicants will be disappointed. The state received 138 applications requesting more than $1 billion — far more money than is available. In the Bay Area alone, cities and counties submitted 29 applications seeking $324 million. Newsom’s office has set aside about $100 million for the Bay Area.
State officials expect to grant additional Project Homekey awards every week until all $600 million has been allocated. All award recipients must use that money to complete their purchases by Dec. 30.