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Bay Area Provides Alcohol & Hotel Rooms To Homeless People With COVID-19 To Encourage Self-Quarantine
In 2019, San Francisco reported just over 8,000 homeless people living throughout the city. As COVID-19 strikes the Bay Area, mandated stay-at-home orders leave much of this population with few options. Those who sleep outdoors do not have access to sanitation facilities and homeless shelters can create breeding grounds for outbreaks. In response, the CDC is recommending that cities provide individual rooms for homeless people who have COVID-19, are awaiting test results, or have been exposed to the virus.
In April, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced “Project RoomKey”, and has stepped up in securing more than 10,000 hotel and motel rooms across 42 counties.
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“Motel 6 is pleased to support Governor Newsom and the State of California’s efforts to provide assistance during the pandemic, including lodging for our most vulnerable populations and first responders,” said Rob Palleschi, CEO of G6 Hospitality LLC. “The partnership will streamline the process for counties across the state who have a need for additional shelter. Motel 6 was born in California in 1962, and we are proud to support the State’s effort to ‘leave a light on’ for citizens in need.”
Although Project Roomkey has provided necessary aid to thousands of homeless people, there is one aspect that is raising some eyebrows. The city’s Department of Public Health is giving alcohol to guests struggling with addiction and facilitating the delivery of cannabis.
Officials from health departments say the practice of administering drugs and alcohol has prevented people from leaving the hotels to retrieve substances, thereby limiting the potential for the virus to spread.
“This program was put in place in order to support isolation and quarantine practices for patients under investigation or those who were positive for COVID-19, so that they do not break their isolation and expose other members of the community,” Dr. Ori Tzvieli, Contra Costa county’s deputy health officer, told Business Insider.
The state is also offering the service of addiction specialists, who can prescribe medications like gabapentin to prevent withdrawal, for those seeking treatment for their addictions.
“This period in our care has allowed some people to connect for the first time with addiction treatment and harm reduction therapy,” the department said in a statement.
While critics argue that this process only enables addicts and normalizing drug use, others support the strategy, saying it promotes safer practices among alcohol and drug users.
“Addiction doesn’t stop because there’s an infectious disease pandemic,” the National Health Care for the Homeless Council wrote in an April memo. “Failure to accommodate substance use disorders will likely mean increases in fatal overdoses/dangerous withdrawals, higher rates of vulnerable people leaving isolation and quarantine against medical advice, and compromised individual and public health.”