FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 30, 2020
Contact: Christopher Yee, firstname.lastname@example.org, 213-219-1417
LAHSA UPDATE ON PANDEMIC RESPONSE EFFORTS TO PROTECT PUBLIC HEALTH AND PREVENT SPREAD OF COVID-19
LAHSA’s life-saving efforts bring results in the midst of the crisis
Project Roomkey now providing housing for more than 1,300 of LA’s most vulnerable at 18 hotel/motel sites, plans underway for moves to PSH
More than 3,000 wellness checks and 4,000 meals to unsheltered on Skid Row, major encampments as part of new street wellness strategies
Advocacy efforts securing more federal, private resources to continue system expansion; shelter & PSH construction continues
LOS ANGELES, CA--Today, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority provided updates on the progress and impact of LA’s efforts to rehouse people experiencing homelessness and protect public health as part of the city and county’s coordinated response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
LAHSA leads the implementation of Project Roomkey, a prevention strategy to ensure the safety of our most vulnerable unhoused residents – seniors over 65 or those who have underlying conditions that compromise their immunity.
As of today, Project Roomkey is sheltering 1,429 people experiencing homelessness across 21 hotel site; an additional site is opening today. Agreements are in place with 26 sites, which yields 2,206 rooms.
LAHSA released a request for information inviting homeless service providers who are interested in operating future Roomkey sites to submit their qualifications, as part of the effort to build the capacity of the system and reach a target of 15,000 rooms.
“Moving over 1,400 highly vulnerable people safely indoors in less than 30 days is an incredible feat,” said LAHSA Interim Executive Director Heidi Marston. “We are building a more effective system, grounded in county-wide partnerships across all sectors, to include our non-profit providers that helped us mobilize quickly in a crisis. Through this crisis, we are building irreversible momentum and will continue to move quickly to take advantage of the state and federal resources that have come to bear through COVID-19. As we continue to open sites, we are partnering with legal and social service providers on-site to get people ready to move on to a permanent home – and when that’s not possible, to temporary options. Our focus remains on ensuring that no one who comes inside goes back to the streets.”
"Project Roomkey is an incredible partnership between the State, the County, and LAHSA, as we work urgently to temporarily house the most vulnerable in our communities to prevent the spread of COVID-19," said Tiana Murillo, the Los Angeles County Temporary Supervisory Administrator overseeing the county’s emergency housing response, including Project Roomkey. "We are grateful for the public-private partnership that is guiding this unprecedented effort."
Street wellness surge at Skid Row and encampments
Marston also provided an update on the coordinated prevention strategy to conduct wellness checks and referrals to shelter on Skid Row and the six largest encampments in the City of LA. Multi-disciplinary outreach teams--including representatives from LAHSA, DMH, DHS, LAFD, and LAPD--are screening individuals for COVID-19 symptoms and vulnerability, triaging patients with symptoms, and referring willing individuals to congregate shelters, medical shelters or Project Roomkey as appropriate.
Last week, multi-disciplinary outreach teams:
Conducted 3,013 medical wellness checks, with 118 symptomatic individuals referred to DPH for testing or 911 for symptoms. 65 of those tested negative, with others pending;
Administered 4,000 meals to people experiencing unsheltered homelessness;
Tested 1,068 people with symptoms: 600 at the City of LA’s pop-up testing site at 6th & Gladys on Skid Row, with results still pending; and 468 people at seven community clinic sites on Skid Row, with 13 positives who are being moved to medical shelters;
Launched an app to identify hot spots for medical triage, in partnership with Akido and DHS, so outreach teams can use smartphones to identify and triage people who need medical screening and connect them to medical shelter or Project Roomkey.
LAHSA, the City of Los Angeles, and the County also partnered with Union Rescue Mission to protect the health of their residents in response to COVID-19 positive cases at the facility. The mission has decompressed from 1000 people to 350 people on-site at URM downtown in order to maintain safe physical distancing. Two hundred people identified as highly vulnerable at the mission were either moved to Project Roomkey or medical shelters. In addition, LAHSA and the Downtown Women’s Center opened a new Project Roomkey site in downtown LA and moved in 45 women. DPH has administered tests weekly to everyone--guests and staff--at the mission. Approximately 10% of the original 1000 people tested positive, and have been transported to medical shelters or isolated to quarantine floors at the mission. The majority, 72%, of those who are testing positive at the mission are largely asymptomatic, reinforcing why comprehensive, universal, proactive testing is so critical to public health.
“We have been playing chess with this Genius Monster Covid-19, and we would have had no chance of making it through without our partners. Thanks to LAHSA, Department of Public Health, Department of Health Services and our City of Los Angeles, for responding to our cry for help and stepping up to assist Union Rescue Mission by decompressing URM downtown,” said Rev. Andy Bales, CEO of Union Rescue Mission. “You helped us get our most vulnerable guests out of Harm’s Way when this uninvited unseen ferocious, mysterious Monster Covid-19 invaded our space and attacked our precious guests. We will never be able to thank you enough for your compassion and immediate action.”
LAHSA has entered into a partnership with the State of California’s Project Lifeline, a public health initiative that provides cell phones for telehealth to qualifying low-income individuals. Outreach teams and providers are equipping qualifying individuals at all shelter sites and on Skid Row and encampments with cell phones in order to maintain contact, provide telehealth screenings, and facilitate contact tracing if needed for those who test positive.
Teams are distributing masks to individuals who decline access to shelter and housing and educating them about sheltering in place and physical distancing.
Continuing to build shelter capacity
All of LA’s year-round interim housing system of 7,300 beds has decompressed for physical distancing, and providers are referring their most vulnerable to Project Roomkey. Fifteen winter shelters have extended hours and operations at varying capacities, adding 900 beds operating 24/7, with a target goal of at least September (some are currently through June and are in negotiations to be extended).
LAHSA and the City of LA have continued opening new shelters at recreation centers, and construction of 12 “A Bridge Home” shelter sites continues in the City of LA, with the next site opening targeted for late May/June.
LAHSA has set up a call center for hospitals, recuperative care centers, and other service providers to refer potential clients who are exiting health care systems and experiencing homelessness to Project Roomkey sites--a long-planned initiative that is now possible through enhanced funding as part of the virus response.
Plans underway to move Roomkey residents into permanent housing
LAHSA’s Housing Central Command has identified 372 current Project Roomkey residents who score a 15-17 (the highest levels of vulnerability) on the system assessment tool that measures acuity and has been prioritized to be matched to housing immediately. The tool, known as VI-SPDAT and used in homeless service systems across the country, measures levels of vulnerability including age, physical and mental health, and other factors.
“This is groundbreaking because - thanks to Project Roomkey - we know exactly where these individuals are, and we are breaking down every barrier we can to make our system work faster and more effectively,” said HCC Director Amy Perkins. “Our housing authority partners are moving toward electronic processes, including certificates of inspection, anything that can be digitized.”
HCC is building a real-time inventory of LA’s PSH capacity, which is not yet complete but currently shows 8,381 units. In their pilot work in SPA 4 (Metro LA) and SPA 7 (East LA), HCC is working with 3,000 people who had been matched to a housing resource to increase the speed of match to move-in. Of those, 1,179 people have a “match status update,” meaning they are moving closer to housing.