Oakland Hotels Housing the Homeless During Coronavirus Pandemic

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Homeless people at risk of contracting the novel coronavirus are receiving some much-needed protection.

The first guests have arrived at one Oakland hotel the state has leased to get the homeless off the streets during the pandemic. A second hotel will open up its doors later this week.

“To eliminate the spread of COVID-19, we have got to get people off the streets,” Lori Cox with Alameda County Social Services said.

The Comfort Inn & Suites is now the site of “Operation Comfort.” The hotel is being used as a place to house the homeless who may have the virus. It is staffed with nurses, security and others to provide around-the-clock care.

Dr. Damon Frances helped check in the first guest last Wednesday night. The guest was a woman who could no longer stay at a shelter because she had symptoms.

“They would have had to stay on the streets that night,” he said.

The Radisson Hotel next door is the site of “Operation Safer Ground.” The hotel will open Wednesday to homeless people who are over 65 years old or who have chronic health conditions.

Every guest will have their belongings treated in a special heated tent designed to kill bed bugs. They will then get a room with their own private bathroom and in-room meal service three times a day. 

A bus is being used to transport the homeless from encampments to the hotels. It has been carefully cordoned off to force passengers to sit six feet apart.

The end goal is to eventually transition the homeless to permanent housing, but for now, getting them safely sheltered is critical.

“If this disease hits them in the encampments and on the streets, the spread of it could be astronomical,” Cox said.

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