The Keys to Housing the Homeless
Source: Santa Barbara County Grand Jury
In 2020, the State of California proposed two programs with one-time funding to help communities manage their homeless populations: Project Roomkey and Project Homekey. Both programs were also an urgent response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to prevent disastrous effects on the homeless. Roomkey secured short-term hotel rooms for elderly homeless who were at risk of catching and spreading the virus. Homekey was intended to house some of that same population through conversion of available buildings to permanent housing. The initial Roomkey funding ended September 30, 2021; the first Homekey funding allocation ended December 31, 2020. Santa Barbara County made promising steps to address homelessness with the one-time State funding. The time constraints motivated county agencies to work together quickly to accomplish the housing goals within months. The collaboration wasunprecedented.
However, the County has found it difficult to duplicate their initial successes with Projects Roomkey and Homekey. There is a discouraging lack of available property in the County, and property owners are reluctant to turn over what they have for the purpose of housing the homeless. Nor are there identified local funds to sustain the two programs without state and federal grant allocations. The 2021 Santa Barbara County Grand Jury looked into these barriers that could limit the success of the two homeless programs.
For 2021-22, there is again $150 million in state funding available for Roomkey and $1.45 billion for Homekey. Future funding after 2022 is uncertain. The2021 Santa BarbaraCounty Grand Jury concluded that the County, its cities and the two Housing Authorities should make every effort to push past barriers in order to secure more housing for the homeless.