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Gov. Newsom Gives $116.3 Million to California, Including $17 Million to OC, for Homekey Homeless Housing Projects

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Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the distribution of $116.3 million in funding for the development of homeless housing in California through Homekey projects on Feb. 16.

387 housing units will be developed using the funds. This addition is part of the $2.75 billion expansion of Homekey that was announced in Sept. 2021 with the goal of building over 1700 housing units. 

This round of the project’s budget includes $17 million given to Orange County. The county is set to purchase a hotel and transition its rooms into living spaces for the homeless. This will create 62 units of housing, as well as additional services to help the residents financially, mentally and physically toward restoring a sustainable life.

The hotel is located near amenities such as public transportation, a grocery store, a health clinic and a pharmacy. A public library will also be made available to the residents. On the housing premises, living skills groups, employment assistance, and case management will also be provided.

Project Homekey was created after Gov. Newsom’s success with Project Roomkey at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Roomkey, launched on Apr. 3, 2020, used Federal Emergency Management Agency funds for non-congregate shelters and hotel rooms to isolate Californians being impacted by the pandemic.

Roomkey provided 15,000 hotel rooms for homeless people who were most at risk of contracting COVID-19, as well as helping to slow the impact of infection on homeless shelters. 

“While Project Roomkey focused on immediate shelter needs, Homekey focuses on permanent housing,” National Alliance to End Homelessness consultant Mary Tingerthal said

The original Homekey project was announced by Gov. Newsom on Jul. 16, 2020. This project would secure housing units within properties like hotels and motels that could potentially become permanent residences for the homeless.

Managed by the California Department of Housing and Community Development, the program holds funds from both federal and state-level departments to find more permanent housing for people who are potentially facing and currently experiencing homelessness. $600 million from state and federal emergency funding was put in place for the project.

As a result of the initial program, Los Angeles County bought 10 hotels that would house around 850 homeless Californians.

Project Homekey held $1.45 billion in funding for expansion in 2021. $1.2 billion of the expansion fund came directly from the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund while $250 million came from the State General Fund.

Statistics show that through the first round of Homekey in 2021, 8264 people were housed, 6050 doors were converted, 5911 units were created and 120 unique project sites were established.

“This particular site is really great because we’re not in a shared living, we’re in a place where they get to sort of make this room their own and they make this their home,” Homeless and Divergent Services representative Hilary Aquino said. “We really meet the client where they’re at and we provide this holistic approach to be able to better support the client in meeting their own goals.”

Through Project Homekey, two motels in Stanton were transformed into permanent housing. When this transformation resulted in moving towards their goal of increasing housing access for the homeless, three more motels in Stanton, Huntington Beach and Costa Mesa were also converted into permanent housing.

OC continues to push to renovate more hotels and motels, with 375 units having already been developed and 423 still under construction.

“The additional funding from the State will help create more safe places for people experiencing homelessness and supportive services to help them reach self-sufficiency,” OC Supervisor Andrew Do said.

Hanna Bulaj is a City News Intern for the winter 2022 quarter. She can be reached at