Helping the unsheltered shelter-in-place

For years, homeless service providers in Los Angeles and across California have been calling for a FEMA-like response to the dual crises of housing and homelessness. That call was in some ways finally answered by national, state, county, and city officials early into the outbreak of COVID-19 with the launch of Project Roomkey. 

Project Roomkey was and continues to be a coordinated, state-wide effort to secure tens of thousands of hotel and motel rooms across California to provide temporary shelter for seniors and individuals suffering from chronic illness during the pandemic, including people experiencing homelessness with high-risk for hospitalization and medical complications should they contract COVID-19. 

In April 2020, DWC officially joined regional Project Roomkey efforts as a contracted service-provider at a hotel in downtown Los Angeles for women experiencing homelessness. Between April and November, DWC staff served a total of 91 women at this hotel with 24/7 security and supportive services, three daily meals, three daily health checks, and basic needs provisions (healthcare, clothing, and hygiene supplies). Case managers and on-site service coordinators were also able to provide housing navigation assistance and trauma-informed case management, including crisis de-escalation and connections to other local services as needed. 

Prior to the site’s planned demobilization on November 11, DWC staff worked closely with LAHSA to ensure that no Project Roomkey resident returned to homelessness. We’re thrilled to report that all women were transitioned to permanent housing, programs that provided a higher level of care, or other Project Roomkey sites, or were enrolled into our Project 100 or Pandemic Recovery Re-Housing Programs. 

As Project Roomkey and now Project Homekey efforts continue to expand into 2021, we remain hopeful that its success will pave the way for sustained conversations around the need for permanent housing as the only real solution to homelessness in Los Angeles and beyond. 

I was working as a safety patrol for DWC's Bridge Housing Program before I joined Project Roomkey as a Site Coordinator.

When I was told what my job would be, my heart just filled with love because I was going to help women and lots of women who were in the Bridge Housing Program before, too. It was very dear to my heart, getting to see women get off the streets and into a motel room, because I was homeless before, too.

Now I’m a Case Manager for our Pandemic Recovery Re-Housing Program, and one of the best parts of both jobs is just knowing I’m of assistance to the ladies, I’m someone they can trust. One of my clients now, who was at the Project Roomkey motel before, she told me, “Ms. La Juana, you know why I signed up for this program? It’s because of you. I don’t trust people, I don’t trust social workers, but I trust you because I watched you at the motel, and everything you told the ladies that you were gonna do for them, you did. That’s why I trust you so much — because you didn’t let us down.”

And that’s just who I am … I am so in tune with their lifestyle, what they’re dealing with, and it’s just a joy to see them coming out of it, to be able to make them feel safe and to tell them to hold on, have faith, and believe in the light at the end of the darkness.”