OAKLAND (CBS SF/AP) — As the state was moving forward with housing the homeless at two Oakland hotels to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Gavin Newsom says that up to 60,000 homeless in the state could end up infected and overwhelm health care providers.
To help prevent the spread, state officials have leased rooms in two hotels near Oakland International Airport to house homeless during the growing crisis.
State officials have identified 901 hotels around California that may be leased to provide housing for the homeless.
On a Monday night Facebook chat, Newsom said the state was taking the action to “get people out of encampments and into environments where we can address their growing anxiety and our growing concern about the health of some of our most vulnerable Californians.”
According to Newsom, state officials have already reached lease agreements for 393 rooms at two unnamed hotels located near the Oakland airport. He said control of the rooms would be turned over to local officials so they can determined how they will be used during the growing spread of the coronavirus in the state.
While controversial to some, Sen. Dianne Feinstein has tossed her support behind Newsom’s efforts.
“I support Governor Newsom’s steps to move homeless individuals indoors,” Feinstein said. “Using hotels, motels and trailers to house the homeless will help limit the spread of the virus. Cities and counties are also stepping up to provide housing, increase sanitary conditions and provide additional health care.”
“The governor said his goal is to ‘get people out of encampments and into environments where we can address their growing anxiety and our growing concern.’ He’s absolutely right,” she continued. “We have to ensure this vulnerable population receives the care it needs.”
The state has more than 150,000 homeless people, the most in the nation, and as the rest of the state’s residents are being told to stay apart and to frequently wash their hands, the homeless are living just as they did before the outbreak.
The virus is spread by coughing and sneezing and could easily sweep through homeless encampments where people live live close together and hygiene is poor or nonexistent.
There is one confirmed death of a homeless person in California. He was among the dead in Santa Clara County which grew to 7 on Wednesday.
Newsom said it’s possible 60,000 homeless people could contract the virus and overwhelm the state’s health care systems. The governor announced he would spend $150 million on efforts to shield that population from the virus.
“I hope you get a sense of the seriousness we’re taking the issue of homelessness,” Newsom said in a Facebook Live broadcast.
Two-thirds of the money will go directly to local governments to spend on homeless services and $50 million will be used by the state to purchase 1,300 travel trailers and lease hotel rooms for emergency housing.
The trailers will be used for homeless people requiring isolation after testing positive for the virus or who are showing symptoms. California also has identified 950 hotels that could lease rooms to local governments to house the homeless.