Newsom: Thousands of Vulnerable Homeless Now Sheltered

California Gov. Gavin Newsom outlines what it will take to lift coronavirus restrictions during a Tuesday news conference. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli,File)

(CN) — Amid the viral outbreak that has left California’s 150,000 homeless vulnerable and the state in a recession, Governor Gavin Newsom said Saturday that a state initiative has provided temporary housing to thousands of homeless and is ready to shelter thousands more.

In a press conference outside of a Motel 6 in Santa Clara County where a large number of infected have been reported, Newsom announced 4,211 homeless have been sheltered in hotel rooms across the state. The update comes as the state announced an additional 1,435 confirmed cases of Covid-19 infections and 87 deaths since Friday.

Announced two weeks ago, Project Roomkey is a state initiative set up to identify those homeless who have been exposed to the virus or those at a higher risk for infection and provide them with temporary shelter.

In addition to those already given shelter, Newsom said Saturday that deals have been set up with Motel 6 to procure more than 5,000 additional rooms on top of the nearly 11,000 already attained.

“They are setting aside, as part of a master agreement template, some 47 Motel 6s like this in 19 counties in the state of California,” Newsom said, adding that the arrangement could extend beyond the pandemic and possibly house homeless residents for longer terms.

Newsom added that several counties have helped lead the efforts to house the homeless during the pandemic.

“We’ve had amazing partnerships not only with Santa Clara County, but Yolo County, Merced County, Los Angeles County, Riverside County and Ventura County, and there’s a reason I mention those counties,” Newsom said. “They have simply done more than all of the other counties to really support this effort.”

The Golden State, which boasts the fifth largest economy in the world, will likely spend billions to continue to fight the virus on top of the $1 billion the Legislature has already allocated. Part of that relief effort includes stopping the spread among the state’s homeless population.

Newsom announced the formation of a task force on Friday meant to help the state slowly open its economy after restrictions are eased. The panel, led by billionaire Tom Steyer, consists of business leaders and all four living former governors.

The governor participated in an online chat with former President Bill Clinton Saturday morning, saying that testing must increase before the state can open up again.

“While California has excelled in so many categories, we have not in testing,” Newsom said.

He added that he expects the state to be able to increase its testing capacity sometime in the near future.

“But right now, we’re not even close as a nation, let alone as a state, to where we should be on testing,” he said.

In a press conference on Friday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said the city will start sending medical teams out on the streets next week to offer Covid-19 fast-result tests to the homeless.

“If we encounter somebody who’s living on the street or in their car, somebody who’s in a shelter who’s sick, they’ll be able to test them right away,” Garcetti said.

According to LA County health officials, more than 30 homeless people have already tested positive for the virus. In San Francisco, more than 100 people at a homeless shelter were confirmed positive for Covid-19.

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