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Newsom Announces $600M Grant Funding to House Californians Experiencing Homelessness During Pandemic

Courtesy photo by Tanja Mason from Pixabay 

Building on the success of Project Roomkey in California, Governor Gavin Newsom announced last Thursday the immediate release of $600 million in funding for Homekey — a project set forth to protect Californians that are at high risk for serious illness and or have been impacted by the pandemic and are in need of safe housing.

The money will be made available to counties, cities and government entities to purchase housing , such as hotels, motels, vacant apartment buildings and other types of innovative housing and convert them into long-term and or permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness.

Of the total, $550 million of the funding budget is part of the allocated federal Coronavirus Aid Relief Funds (CRF) and the remaining $50 million is derived from the State’s Federal Fund.

Upon the release of the Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA) on July 16, local governments will have until Aug. 13, 2020 to request a pre-application consultation with the Housing and Community Development (HCD) via email (Homekey@hcd.ca.gov) and for the priority application period.

Online applications for funding availability are live and all applications are due by Sept. 29.

The state plans to announce awards as early as October 2020, fast tracking funds to cities and counties within the first 30 days of award roll-out with the goal of having local governments spend grant funds by Dec. 30 of this year.

This is considered one of the largest and fastest housing projects set in process to help protect the most vulnerable people in need of housing during this crisis in California.

The number of fatalities caused by COVID-19 have disproportionately impacted Black and Latinx communities across the country. These unfortunate patterns are also reflected in the number of people experiencing homelessness across California.

The state has also responded to this issue and has dedicated funds to various regions focusing on the goal to diminish the unequal disproportion of people experiencing homelessness in the Black and Latino communities throughout California.

“Homekey reflects our shared values, including dedicating pots of funding for various regions in furtherance of geographic equity goals. Homekey prioritizes cost control, speed, and social service enhancements as key criteria. And Homekey acknowledges and prioritizes racial equity because homelessness disproportionately impacts Black and Latino communities across California,” said Governor Newsom in a letter to local elected officials.

The urgency setting Homekey in process is also based on the successful collaboration between the state and local governments on Project Roomkey.

Since the launch of Project Roomkey, there have been close to 16,000 leased hotels and motel rooms under county control, providing safe interim housing to more than 14,200 people, and counting, during a short amount of time.

Will local elected officials be able to act quickly and effectively to receive grant funding to implement Homekey in their respective areas? Will $600 million in funding be enough to make up for the potential rise in the number of people who may experience homelessness caused by the pandemic? 

Time will only tell; however, based on the success state and local officials have had with housing thousands through project Roomkey, the announcement of millions of dollars to be allocated and spent by end of 2020 for project Homekey indicates a level of urgency Newsom feels on addressing the homeless crisis in our state during the pandemic.

July 23, 2020

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Alejandra Cordero


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