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Gov. Newsom switching focus to permanent housing for homeless amid pandemic

"Shelters solve sleep. Housing and supportive services solve homelessness," Gov. Gavin Newsom said.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Governor Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday that the state is shifting its focus on homelessness from providing temporary shelters to working on ways to give the unhoused permanent homes amid the pandemic.

With the change in focus comes the announcement of a change in name for the state's Project Room Key, a collaborative effort from state and local officials to house the unhoused during the pandemic. 

It's now called Project Home Key in effort to give those facing homelessness during the pandemic a key to their own home not just one to a room.

"Shelters solve sleep. Housing and supportive services solve homelessness," Newsom said.

Sacramento's COVID-19 Homelessness Response Team agrees, which is why it is recommending to both the city council and county board of supervisors an additional $4 million to help folks with rehousing. 

That means helping them find housing, securing that housing and helping them with rent. And it means implementing a two-stragtegy plan, according to Cindy Cavanaugh, the Director of Homeless Initiatives.

"The first immediate strategy is to put 500 participants into existing apartments," Cavanaugh explained. "At the same time, we will explore creating new apartments — affordable housing — through Project Home Key." 

Woodlake resident Bernice Jimenez Creager has reservations

Creager said she believes there's been a rise of crime and homelessness near her home because she lives near a hotel used for Project Room Key.

"We have seen an uptick in intoxicated individuals throughout the neighborhood, and this was not the case prior to Room Key," Creager said. "We are not saying that Room Key residents are at fault, but there have been a lot of these incidents tied back to the hotel."

Nine-hundred people experiencing homelessness have been served through Project Room Key in the Sacramento Area, and 14,000 have been served across the state.

But it hasn't been enough, Newsom said.

"[We need] a sense of permanency, a sense of place, a framework of opportunity to anchor the progress we've made in the midst of this pandemic," Newsom said.

Follow the conversation on Facebook with Monica Coleman.

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WATCH MORE: Governor Newsom gives update on the California's response to COVID-19 (June 30, 2020)