Sacramento, CA

“We’ve been living a nightmare,” homeless couple says

Robert J Hansen

Couple kicked out of Project Roomkey hotel for testing positive for Covid-19

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La Quinta hotel on Jibboom Street in Sacramento(Photo courtesy of Sacramento Business Journal)

A couple staying at a Sacramento County Project Roomkey (PRK) funded hotel was forced to leave their room this morning after testing positive for Covid-19.

Billy Baker, 46, and Howard LaPierre, 66 said they were told by staff at the La Quinta on Jibboom Street that they had to leave after living there for about a year.

“We have all our things there and they told us we had to leave for two weeks,” Baker said.

Public Information Officer for Sacramento County Janna Haynes said when a guest tests positive for COVID, they are informed by a Goodwill supervisor or medical staff and informed that they must isolate themselves in their room for a 10 day quarantine period.

Haynes said the County does not discuss any specifics of guests whether they are in or out of its program.

The PRK program is run and staffed by Goodwill Sacramento Valley and Northern Nevada.

Goodwill supervisors at La Quinta have not provided comments after several attempts to contact them.

Haynes said that part of the County’s Covid protocol is to have medical staff do daily monitoring Monday through Friday.

Guests are provided with masks that must be worn if they do need to go outside of their room (e.g., to walk a pet or if they smoke). If smoking, they must keep at minimum a 12 feet distance from others.

Meals are brought to their rooms and if additional groceries or medication is needed, they can be delivered or can be coordinated with onsite staff.

Guests are told not to leave campus unless it is to seek medical attention during that isolation period and there is access to medical transportation if they do not have a vehicle or their illness does not rise to the level of needing an ambulance according to Haynes.

Baker, who is Native American, says staff does not do their job and that he and his husband have asked repeatedly for help for supportive housing but never received any.

“Since we’ve been in Sacramento we’ve been attacked and have been told that we should just leave town,” Baker said. “We have never been connected with a supportive housing program.”

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Howard LaPierre (left) and Billy Baker in their friends truck on January 2, 2022.(Photo courtesy of Billy Baker)

Baker and LaPierre moved to Sacramento from San Francisco two years ago and feel they are being discriminated against because they are homosexual.

They both receive social security disability as their only source of income.

“We were told that if we said we were just roommates that we could get help,” Baker said. “We shouldn’t have to do anything like that.”

Baker and LaPierre are now staying in a friend’s truck to stay warm.

“The last two years we have been living a nightmare,” Baker said.

PRK, which was created in response to Covid-19, was meant for a specific group of people who were over 65 or had significant medical issues so they could find a place to isolate according to Haynes.

Haynes, in a previous interview, said about 300 people are being sheltered by project roomkey with three participating hotels.

People cannot self-access the program Haynes said.

“It is specifically through a group of referral partners we have worked with that are trained in the motel voucher referral program,” Haynes said.

These partners are service providers, medical providers and law enforcement Haynes said.

When people come into contact with them it’s through a service they have accessed or through a referral from a medical partner.

The program is planned to continue through March of 2022 according to Haynes.

“We had anticipated it being a three-month program and then another three months and it just keeps getting extended as the pandemic extends,” Haynes said. “Also, it being winter, now is not the time to try to exit 300 people we don’t have places for.”

Funding has come from a variety of federal and state funding like the CARES Act and ARPA.

According to Haynes, it cost $3,000 to $4,000 a month per person to run the program.

“Long term it’s not the most cost-effective way to provide shelter and services to people,” Haynes said.

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Robert J Hansen is an investigative journalist and economist. Focused on holding elected officials, police and the courts accountable to the people throughout the greater Sacramento area.

Sacramento, CA
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