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I-Team takes an in-depth look at Project Room Key

Riverside County is working to open communications with the City of Palm Springs after Police Chief Bryan Reyes blasted a program that places homeless people who need to quarantine in a hotel in the city.

In March, Reyes raised concerns after finding out about the program that places at-risk homeless people, some who are released from jail.

Last week, the council council was given a full explanation in a county presentation.

The program started in 2004 and included a hotel in Palm Springs and one in Riverside.

For the first 15 years, the program was rarely used.

In 2019, there was just one person housed in the Palm Springs hotel.

Then Covid-19 happened.

Riverside County's Public Health Director, Kim Saruwatari, says the county suddenly had more at-risk people being released from hospitals or jail who needed to isolate with no where to go.

Thirteen patients ended up at the hotel in Palm Springs.

In its latest update to the city, the county also touted Project Room Key, a new effort to get especially vulnerable homeless people off the streets.

The Director of Housing, Homeless Prevention and Workforce Solutions, Heidi Marshall says it's having a big impact.

"We started participating in that and offered services to folks who were medically fragile, those who were 65 and over, and pregnant women," Marshall says.

The program provides vouchers for hotel rooms to give people a place to stay while they transition into a permanent housing situation.

It's funded through the federal CARES Act and has cost the county around $12 million dollars to help over 900 people, with over 130 of those locally.

"133 are in the city of palm springs and breaking it further down, 58 of them have transitioned into a permanent housing opportunity," Marshall reports.

That's a success rate of about 44%.

The city is happy with the update from Riverside County.

Police Chief Bryan Reyes releasing this statement to News Channel 3:

"I am pleased that the County of Riverside has responded to the City's request for information regarding homeless programs in a timely manner and that they have significantly raised the level of communication with County staff. In addition, City Staff has witnessed a consistent effort from the County to collaborate and find solutions to address the homeless crisis in Palm Springs -- and some of the immediate concerns. For example, the designated downtown hotel that served as a primary housing location for Project RoomKey clients has now transitioned their clients to other hotels within the City. This adjustment alone highlights willingness from the County to hear our concerns. I feel confident that the County of Riverside will continue to collaborate with the City of Palm Springs in the coming weeks."

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John White

John White anchors News Channel 3 Live at 5:00 p.m., 6:00 p.m., and 11:00 p.m.on KESQ-TV and CBS Local 2. Learn more about John here.

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