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Ten to 15 local hotels have volunteered to house the homeless in rooms to recover or quarantine from potential COVID-19 infection. Image via PIxabay

published on April 22, 2020 - 2:04 PM
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As hotels in the Valley and across California continue to struggle to find revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic, the homeless population has been presented as one possible source of business courtesy of government funding.

According to Layla Forstedt, president and CEO of the Fresno/Clovis Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, the hotel business is going be hit hard as events are canceled and parks are closed across the country.

“I do think that April is going to be not a good month and my hope is that it will start coming back in May,” Forsdedt said. “Not everywhere, but I believe we will here.”

In the meantime, however, the local hotels have been trying to scrape up whatever business they can as many of them hover at less than 10% of their maximum occupancy. This has led to reaching out to travelling doctors and nurses, construction workers and even enlisting for the war against the coronavirus.

Last month, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the state would be procuring hotels and motels during the lockdown for the purpose of quarantine and isolation and to further flatten the curve.

As the Fresno County Department of Public Health searches for a place to house the homeless for the purpose of containment and quarantine, the now (mostly) empty hotels in the area have become one of the most viable options. In fact, Forstedt has already communicated with the FCDPH to offer them a list of willing participants.

Sonia De La Rosa, principal administrative analyst for the Fresno County health department, said that so far, 10 to 15 hotels have volunteered their services, with two of them being selected. The homeless being sheltered there are those who are either in quarantine as they await test results, or those with COVID-19 who are in recovery.

Negotiations are being finalized for a third hotel, this one capable of housing a little more than 200 people. This one, however, will be used not for quarantine or isolation, but rather for sheltering in place. But because these are private businesses, De La Rosa added that there will be requirements for the homeless to meet.

“There will be parameters in place,” she said. “It’ll likely be criteria that already some of the folks at our shelters already meet and are able to move in.”

Homeless shelters are also being mobilized to get these individuals off the streets for the duration of the crisis. These include the Fresno Rescue Mission and the RH Community Builders warming shelter.

Financial compensation for the project is being made by the county through funding from the state. De La Rosa further explained that agreements are being put in place that will determine what the rate will be per night, along with any other amenities provided.

“In most instances, the agreements are for much less than what you would normally pay for the night at those different locations,” she said. “It’s usually substantially more.”

It may be less, but De La Rosa stated that “it is something” in a difficult business climate for the hospitality industry and that these hospitals will be actively serving in the effort to beat back the pandemic.

Due to the health-related nature of the hotels’ use for quarantine and COVID-19 isolation, the county can not disclose the names of the hotels that are being used.

Nonetheless, regardless of how many homeless are sheltered and how many hotels can get a contract, the hospitality sector in Fresno County and the Central Valley —and the country as a whole — is in a race against time to get business back up and running before its too late.

“Because there is money that’s been given to the government to pay for these things, some properties will be housing travelling nurses and doctors, some will be housing construction crews,” Forstedt said. “So those are the kind of things we’re looking at and for as many as we can. We have a lot of properties here, so I’m not sure how long everyone can hold on.”

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