Critics Attacked Alameda County for Its Hotel Closing Plans Until Next Year

Recently, Alameda County has announced its plans of shutting down the majority of its hotels by 2021, leaving thousands of homeless unsheltered once again. According to the district, Alameda would only run three inns starting next year – one establishment for positive COVID-19 patients and two as shelters. The process of closing lodges began in the past few months and would continue until February. The said idea caused an uproar from critics, who argued that the decision would make people more vulnerable to get infected by the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.  

County administrators moved homeless people into hotels last March due to the fear of a possible surge of coronavirus cases in the area. The transfer resulted in about eight of the country’s hotels housing 1,122 people, while 1,500 have already stayed in county hotels since then.

The Alameda County Office of the Homeless and Care and Coordination’s director Kerry Abbott said that the county is currently drafting housing placements for those people who would get affected by the said move. As of late, several of the homeless groups reside in one of the county’s two owned hotels – Oakland’s Edes Avenue’s 150-room Days Hotel and Comfort Inn, which has over 104 rooms. 

Abbott also revealed that the state gave the Alameda County financial aid amounting to $13 million to help address the district’s COVID-19 situation. The said funds went to hotel programs, building hygiene stations at encampments as a result.

Additionally, through next June, the county decides to keep at least one hotel open to house those infected with the coronavirus. Other housing choices for the affected homeless include supportive housing composed of tiny homes, small shelters, and rental infrastructures. Abbott described the previously mentioned plan as an unprecedented opportunity to re-house over 1,000 people within the next few months. According to Abbott, the number of transferring people next year would become higher compared to previous moving schemes.

However, multiple homeless critics expressed their concerns regarding the county’s choice to close hotels and drive the homeless away. According to them, the action would only catalyze more surges of coronavirus cases across the region.

Homeless Advocates’ Concerns and the County’s Latest Coronavirus Case Updates

According to a data analysis conducted by the Chronicle, the Bay Area recorded an average number of nearly 1,600 new daily cases during the released weekly report of November 29. From these past two weeks, Alameda County has reported over 3,675 new cases, bringing the total number of instances to 30,330.

Oakland homeless advocate Tayla Husbands-Hankin emphasized that many sheltered homeless include people with disabilities and medically vulnerable elders. According to Tayla, returning the occupants to the streets would only produce catastrophic results. She also encouraged the city, county, and state levels to work together in keeping the programs functional by increased funding methods to support their housing operations.

Alameda County spokeswoman Jerri Randrup revealed that the program recorded its number of left participants up to 355, with 137 of them later housed in permanent homes. Additionally, there were about 40 people who abandoned the initiative and went back to live on the streets or in vehicles. Several others enlisted themselves in treatment projects while the rest transferred to other shelters.

Randrup also stated that Gov. Gavin Newsom declared in mid-November that he would grant financial support for the counties’ hotel rooms sheltering the homeless during the pandemic with a total amount of $62 million. Despite the large sum of money, Alameda County only received its portion of the aid, amounting to $3.5 million. Due to a lack of sufficient funds, Randrup said that the county staff is currently working on a budget plan to use a part of the funds into rehousing programs. The rest of the investments would support expenses for sheltering homeless people across the county.