Correspondence on COVID-19 and the Homeless With County Healthsters

Thanks for your answers.  I, of course, have more questions.  These are in CAPITALS below.
I will forward your answers to many others interested in your stats.  

You are also invited to attend the protest happening Friday April 24th outside of Denny’s on Ocean Ave noon to 2 PM.  See “Shame on Santa Cruz–Hotels Not Hospitals” at

Coverage of an earlier protest can be found at (Demonstrators Demand Santa Cruz Provide Hotel Vouchers for the Homeless).  An earlier story I posted is at (Questions that Demand Answers).
Please reply with whatever information you have to the attached questions or refer me to those who have the information, if you don’t.
Thanks again,

Robert Norse HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom)


Your e-mail was forwarded to me.  Please see my answers to your questions below in red: (Note: This blog does not have the answers in red but the answers from her are right after each question)

As you know, the Supes finally unanimously voted to open motel rooms to thousands of homeless people


Reports about Santa Cruz’s failure to empty its dangerous group shelters continue to be unclear. Can you provide either stats or informed estimates in answer to the following questions?

  • How many motel rooms are currently available for housing homeless folks?
    • There are currently 27 motel rooms in contract with the County for persons experiencing homelessness who are symptomatic or medically vulnerable.  WHEN WERE THESE ROOMS ACQUIRED?   The County is expecting to have two more motels ready for occupancy by the end of next week, which would provide a total of 112 rooms. We are looking into securing additional sites to provide isolation and quarantine services for unhoused residents.
  • How many are currently vacant, how many occupied?
    • Approximately 20 of the 27 motel rooms are currently occupied. Under the prioritization system laid out as part of Project Roomkey, the County is keeping a certain number of rooms available for people who are homeless who test positive for COVID-19, or who need to quarantine because of the likelihood of infection.  HOW MANY OF THE ROOMS ARE BEING OCCUPIED BY PEOPLE WHO ARE VULNERABLE BUT NOT COVID-19 POSITIVE OR SICK WITH SYMPTOMS?  

  • What’s the cost of these rooms?  How much funding is still available?
    • The County expects to receive $800,000 from the State for all the sheltering activities underway due to COVID19. Some of these funds will be used for the hotel shelters. In addition to the cost of securing the rooms, the County must provide associated services, cleaning, security, insurance, meals and other supplies that allow residents to stay in rooms and isolate. As you noted, we and many others around the state are watching San Francisco to see if they are able to deliver on the Board’s mandate – our preliminary calculations show the cost of securing 7,000 hotel rooms to be nearly $1.2 million per day. HOW MUCH COVID-19 HOUSING FUNDING HAS NOT YET BEEN SPENT?
    • Governor Newsom also announced a master lease agreement with Motel 6 to provide rooms under Project Roomkey. It is unclear what, if any, impact that agreement will have on Santa Cruz County’s unhoused population.
  • Have all shelter operators (or at least Salvation Army and Housing Matters) offered its clients the option to go into these shelters?
    • All shelter operators were able to refer their participants to the motel.  DOES “REFERRED” MEAN THAT SHELTER CLIENTS WERE OFFERED ACCESS TO THE ROOMS?  HOW MANY IN THE SHELTERS WERE NOT OFFERED THE ROOMS?   Referred persons were screened and placed in the motel, first based on their COVID-19 status and then on medical vulnerability and age, consistent with the prioritization guidelines of Project Roomkey.  The initial 27 rooms are insufficient to meet the need; the County is actively seeking more hotels willing to partner consistent with the terms of the Governor’s program.  HOW MANY WHO MET THE REQUIREMENTS WERE UNABLE TO BE PLACED IN SAFER MOTEL ROOMS?
  • Or rather are only those who are (a) sick and (b) COVID-19 positive being given that option?   Is it an option or a requirement for the COVID-19 cases?
    • No one is required to go to the motel. The first priority for the motel is to provide persons who are confirmed or presumed COVID-19 positive the opportunity to isolate or quarantine. After those needs are met, the remaining rooms are offered to people who are at highest risk of severe illness from COVID-19 by virtue of their age and/or medical vulnerability.  WHAT ARE THE CRITERIA FOR MEDICAL VULNERABILITY THAT YOU ARE USING?   It is important to note that while we currently have no known COVID-19 cases in the unhoused population, Santa Cruz County’s surge is now projected to hit in mid-May, and we must keep rooms available for immediate isolation of diagnosed patients in order to minimize community harm.  HOW MANY OF THOSE IN SHELTERS HAVE BEEN TESTED?   HAS EVERYONE WHO REQUESTED A TEST BEEN GIVEN ONE?
  • Most important, is the motel option being offered to all homeless people in these shelters?
    • No, the County does not have enough motel rooms under contract to offer one to every person staying in a shelter.   As described above, another part of the County’s overall strategy is to help shelters transition to a shelter-in-place model that allows participants to remain at the site 24/7 with appropriate distancing and hygiene practices.  The County will continue to focus on serving the most medically vulnerable and those needing isolation and quarantine as it secures additional motel rooms.  HOW MANY MEDICALLY VULNERABLE PEOPLE OUTSIDE AND NOT IN SHELTERS HAVE YOU INCLUDED IN YOUR MOTEL SANCTUARIES?  HOW MANY HAVE BEEN TESTED OR EXAMINED FOR COVID-19, SICKNESS, OR VULNERABILITY?
  • Or are, at least, elderly and vulnerable people being offered the rooms?  What are the specific criteria?
    • As noted, we have moved a number of medically vulnerable individuals from the existing shelter network into hotel rooms.  WHAT NUMBER?  HOW MANY ARE NOT BEING SHELTERED?  This not only protects those individuals, but also those who remain in the shelter network as we increase physical distancing in shelters in accordance with CDC guidelines.  ARE YOU CLAIMING THAT CDC GUIDELINES SUGGEST THAT ANY COLLEGIATE SHELTERING OF UNAFFILIATED GROUPS IS SAFE?   IF SO, PLEASE CITE THE CDC DOCUMENTS THAT BACK UP THIS CLAIM.  We are prioritizing elderly individuals and persons with pre-existing medical conditions that make them especially at-risk for mortality should they contract COVID-19.
  • Who has these statistics if you do not?  What is their contact information?
    • Please see above responses.
  • How many cases of sickness have appeared in the Paul Lee Loft, the Page Smith Community House, the Laurel St. Shelter, the Armory, and the Vets Hall?  How many documented COVID-19 cases in each place?  
    • While persons experiencing homelessness have been tested and a handful have been quarantined pending test results, HOW MANY WOULD THAT BE?  there have been no confirmed COVID-19 positive individuals in the homeless community in Santa Cruz County. To help prevent persons becoming sick with COVID-19,  we continue to build capacity by opening new shelters (these include new shelters at the Santa Cruz and Watsonville Veteran’s Memorial Buildings, as well a transition-age youth shelter at Simpkins Family Swim Center), increasing physical distancing in existing shelters, opening hotels for isolation and quarantine, and sheltering.  WHAT ARE THE DAILY COSTS OF RUNNING THOSE SHELTERS?  PLEASE ITEMIZE THE COST OF RUNNING ALL THE CURRENT SHELTERS, AS FAR AS PUBLIC FUNDS GO. We have requested trailers from the state to provide additional sheltering capacity. We are also getting additional supplies out to people who are still living outdoors so that they are better able to shelter in place according to CDC guidelines. We have also conducted outreach to the unhoused population to educate them on safe practices, including physical distancing. HOW MUCH MONEY IS BEING SPENT ON A DAILY BASIS TO PROVIDE FOOD, SURVIVAL GEAR, TRASH PICK-UP, PORTAPOTTY OR BATHROOM SERVICING, LAUNDRY AND SHOWER ACCESS, AND ELECTRICAL RECHARGING CAPACITY FOR THE OVERWHELMING MAJORITY WHO ARE CURRENTLY WITHOUT SHELTER?  PLEASE SPECIFY THE SERVICES BEING MADE AVAILABLE AND THEIR COSTS IN EACH OF THESE CATEGORIES.  ALSO INDICATE HOW MUCH OF THE MONEY AVAILABLE IS GOING FOR SALARIES, OFFICES, AND OTHER ADMINISTRATIVE OVERHEAD.

I am also cc-ing a number of county officials who might be helpful.  I encourage them to provide whatever help they can.

If I can get some simple direct answers, I won’t have to follow this up with a specific and time-consuming (for me and staff) Public Records Act request.

For additional information, please also see the County’s Press Release regarding its COVID-19 Homelessness Task Force at:

Thank you,