In the letter called “Immediate Access to Hotel Rooms For Unhoused And Other At Risk Residents” Oakland City Council President Kaplan asks Governor Newsom For Hotel Acesss
Honorable Richard Valle, President
Alameda County Board of Supervisors
1221 Oak Street, #536
Oakland, CA 94612
Honorable Gavin Newsom, Governor
State of California
1303 10th Street, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814
Erica Pan, MD., County Health Officer
Alameda County Public Health Dept.
1000 Broadway, Suite 500
Re: Immediate Access to Hotel Rooms For Unhoused And Other At Risk Residents
Dear Governor Gavin Newsom, Alameda County Board President Valle, and County Health Officer Pan,
The COVID-19 pandemic puts our community at significant risk, and calls upon us to take important action to protect public health and human lives. While our federal government has failed to provide tracking, testing, and personal protective equipment and this disease is exposing the faults in our healthcare system, I want to thank you for issuing Shelter-in-Place Orders early, and hence flattening our curve. This unprecedented act has resulted in saving lives, and is keeping many of our residents safer. Nonetheless, we do have some people in our communities who have no place in which to shelter, and this continues to be a major risk which requires further action.
Thank you for helping secure approximately 363 rooms at two hotels that have been designated for individuals experiencing homelessness in Oakland. It is our understanding that Alameda County designated one of the hotels for high risk seniors experiencing homelessness who are 65 years of age and older to “shelter-in-place”, and the other for individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19. We have heard that some people have been provided rooms in the hotels, that the process to access them is lengthy and onerous, and even that rooms may be being kept vacant intentionally, while thousands continue to remain on our streets, or in group-room facilities which have been identified as places of high risk. At the same time, numerous hotel rooms throughout our region are vacant and available.
The 2019 County Point-In-Time Homeless Count noted 4,071 individuals experiencing homelessness in the City of Oakland. I am deeply concerned that unhoused individuals will have a difficult time meeting the requirements of physical distancing. While the Order issued by the County exempts said individuals, unhoused residents are at greater risk for infection as they don’t have a home to “shelter in place”, often don’t have access to running water and sanitation, and other risk factors for worse COVID outcomes.
For this very reason, yesterday, the Board of Supervisors at the City and County of San Francisco unanimously passed an Ordinance “to secure 8,250 private rooms by April 26, 2020, through service agreements with hotels and motels for use as temporary quarantine facilities for people currently experiencing homelessness, people released from local hospitals with COVID-19 exposure or infection, and front-line workers in the COVID-19 crisis.”
This decision was in part based on a letter sent to the City and County of San Francisco from multiple UC Berkeley faculty from the School of Public Health who stated the following as it pertains to unhoused and at risk individuals during COVID-19:
“For people who are not infected or sick: make it possible for all people experiencing homelessness to shelter in place (as we are instructing the general population to do) in hotel rooms or similar single-occupancy vacant units with private bathrooms. This will minimize their exposure to people who are infected and decrease their likelihood of being infected if exposed through individual access to hygiene and cloth masks…Allow individuals to bring their belongings and pets into hotels with them….Shelters for the minority of individuals who cannot function safely in hotel rooms and who are not sick, with partitions and increased numbers of bathrooms and sinks/hand sanitizer stations per person.”
The letter goes on to make other recommendations including a moratorium on encampment and RV sweeps-such action was already taken by the City of Oakland via Resolution, and are recommended for the whole of the County. We ask you to work with us, to advance a plan, similar to San Francisco County’s, to house the unhoused, first responders, and other residents at risk, by moving them into individual rooms.
Accordingly, we ask to consider immediately the below actions:
1. Make hotel rooms immediately available for use to provide for safe “shelter in place” for people experiencing homelessness, including: people currently residing in a congregate shelter room; people who are currently unsheltered; and unhoused people being released from jails with priority to vulnerable populations.
2. Ensure direct connections with local community organizations with ability to help provide access for the homeless to the hotel-room programs. Do not require that people already be sick to obtain a room, ensure the process is timely and doesn’t require the homeless to have computers or other barriers.
3. Provide hotel rooms to front-line responders to this crisis, including but not limited to health care workers and others who are at risk of exposure to COVID-19.
Again, thank you for your leadership and attention to these critical issues. We look forward to working with you and other leaders to bring these proposals into reality.
Oakland City Council President
Cc: Honorable Keith Carson, Alameda County Board of Supervisors, Vice-President Honorable Scott Haggerty, Alameda County Board of Supervisors
Honorable Wilma Chan, Alameda County Board of Supervisors
Honorable Nate Miley, Alameda County Board of Supervisors