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Valley hotels are housing the homeless amid pandemic, part of statewide ‘Project Roomkey’

Seven valley hotels and motels are currently participating in the statewide program called Project Roomkey.

California launched the program back in April. It’s designed to offer housing to those facing homelessness and those most vulnerable to COVID-19. 

News Channel 3’s Madison Weil got a tour of the Rodeway Inn & Suites in Indio, one local hotel taking part in the program.  

While on site, Weil spoke with Sabrina Martinez, who has been staying inside a room at the Rodeway Inn & Suites for two weeks. 

“Where would you be otherwise...if this wasn’t an option?” asked Weil. 

“Oh out on the streets still,” said Martinez. 

Her story is like many others being housed by Project Roomkey. The program is funded by the CARES Act and also provides people with food. 

“They knock on the door and it’s like a little red bag and we take it and eat,” explained Martinez. 

The program also provides laundry service, prescription delivery and other medical resources, according to county representatives. They say Project Roomkey is designed to help those 65 and older, pregnant women, those who have been recently discharged from a hospital with no place to go, and the medically vulnerable. 

“For me, having asthma and this COVID-19...it’s very hard because it controls your lungs. It’s very scary,” said Martinez who falls into the unhoused and medically vulnerable category. 

Each person in the program is given a case manager. The county says the ultimate goal is to successfully transition those living in these rooms to permanent, stable housing. 

Of the more than 800 people countywide being housed under the program right now, they say they've already successfully transitioned 116. 

The program not only houses the homeless but also helps the hotel industry. 

“I honestly thank God we’ve made it through up until this point,” said Vasudev Patel, the hotel manager at the Rodeway Inn & Suites. 

Patel says the hotel lost $250,000 in March and April alone. “It’s scary...as a business owner I was scared.” 

He says the state is paying his hotel the average nightly rate for each room being used to house someone in need. And he’s offered up 10 of his 43 rooms for use by the program. 

“We put in new flooring...we painted. This is one of the rooms that was given out to the county,” explained Patel, showing News Channel 3 inside. 

Patel added he’s seen firsthand the guest gratitude and benefit of the program: “Honestly I’ve seen them from the time they checked in to now, where they have really rehabbed themselves. You can really see it on the way they look.” 

The county says they do provide additional on site security to keep participating hotels safe. Patel says at his hotel, however, the majority have been respectful and appreciative. 

“It’s not just always about money. If society is asking for help, we have an obligation if we have the facilities to help them out,” he said. 

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Madison Weil

Madison Weil joined the KESQ News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 News Team in June 2018. Learn more about Madison here.

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