South Bay Project Roomkey Residents Fear a Housing Shuffle

When not cleaning pools, 68-year-old Scott Pearson stays at the Motel 6 in Campbell, marking the first time in five years of homelessness he’s had temporary housing—except for the time he spent five months recovering from sepsis.

His room was afforded to him as part of the state’s Project Roomkey initiative to house seniors and people with underlying health conditions during the pandemic, but he just found out he’s about to lose the closest thing to a home he’s had in years.

Instead, he was told he'll be moved to FEMA trailers, where he’ll share common areas with others. He won’t have his own mini-fridge or microwave anymore, which means he’ll need to mingle with more people for his basic needs, like eating.

“The motel room is perfect,” Pearson said. “This is all I need to be safe.”

In his work, Pearson has been able to stay far away from infectious people.

Since Covid-19 hit the U.S. and dug its spikes into Santa Clara County, making it a hotbed at the start of the pandemic, Pearson stays outside and his clients stay safely indoors.

“If they're home, they'll just knock on the window and wave, that's it,” he said. “The only thing I come in contact with are dogs.”

That’s ideal for Pearson, who has several underlying health problems, including a heart condition. His former primary care doctor was glad to hear he’d moved into the Motel 6 in Campbell, as he would likely not survive contracting Covid-19.

Pearson said the motel room has changed his life.

Project Homekey is the first program of its kind in the nation. Since the start of the pandemic the initiative has turned 16,000 hotel and motel rooms across 55 counties and tribal areas into housing for 22,300 people at risk of suffering severe complications if they were to contract the novel coronavirus.

And despite the messages he says he's been getting about having to move, Pearson hasn't heard about whether the move is still on after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced this past week that FEMA funds were allocated to sustain and expand initiatives like Project Roomkey.

Pearson has been at the Motel 6 since June, and is hoping that new funding will let him stay there until the pandemic passes. Before, he was living out of his van, and doesn’t have a caseworker to advocate for him.

Santa Clara County got $2.8 million of the FEMA dollars to continue funding initiatives like Project Roomkey, as well as other programs for healthcare workers, farmworkers and those leaving jail or prison who have been exposed to the virus.

But the goal for Project Roomkey specifically is to give homeless seniors and chronically ill people a safe place to stay during the pandemic before transitioning to permanent housing. What that will look like in the coming months remains to be seen.

“I feel like a condemned criminal waiting for the governor to issue a stay,” Pearson said.

10 Comments

  1. There are more effective ways to end homelessness that can be implemented for FREE. It starts with judicial oversight. I have been homeless since May 2017. This is because Judge James Towery presided over my divorce. I was ordered to live off of $300 a month after taxes and child support. That’s not even enough money to eat, let alone pay rent. I was also haven’t seen 3 of my kids in over SIX years. Judge Towery could not even give me a reason why after being being asked at a hearing. How do you think that affects the life of someone who is homeless?

  2. > Instead, he was told he’ll be moved to FEMA trailers, where he’ll share common areas with others. He won’t have his own mini-fridge or microwave anymore, which means he’ll need to mingle with more people for his basic needs, like eating.

    Oh, the horror!

    The suffering must be immense.

    Quick! Pillage some taxpayers and make sure Scott gets a decent motel room not too near the elevator or the ice machine.

    I think he’s really gotten used to the maid service and the bedtime mint on his pillow.

    “Democrats have done this for me!”

    ‘If I can get upgraded to a suite, I’ll harvest ballots for them next election and even vote twice myself.”

  3. I find this article fascinating.

    For all the Econoclasts, Mr Goldsteins, and Jills out there that think property is theft. This should inform you of the alternative. Once housing is a human right and no one is allowed to own their own home or, at the least no one is allowed to own someone else’s residence, all tenants will live like Mr Pearson. You will live in what the government provides at the pleasure of the government. Do they need to move you, they move you. Will they need the space for someone more worthy than you? Well then you’re out. Since you are not paying for it, what leverage will you have? You want your stove fixed, submit your trouble ticket and see where that goes. You want to move someplace else, hahaha, good luck. File your requisition and see where that goes.

    There will always be more need than supply, because why would anyone build or maintain any additional units? There will always be something else to fix, your stove or water heater or toilet are just a trifle in the magnitude of the effort to house all these people. Where will the money come from, taxes? Please, guess what, the rich don’t pay taxes and capital flies about as fast as light these days, and renters are the middle class of California.

    Stuck and completely dependent on a byzantine and entrenched bureaucracy, you will be insignificant irritations. You won’t even be a you anymore. You will exist where they tell you to and how they tell you to, because the collective need is more important than one persons comfort or happiness.

    The best part is, your future can co-exist with capitalism, actually it will. You see this is Newsom strategy, to buy up all these properties either through the state or NGOs. And he will house you, And you will live just like Mr Pearson here, desperately nervous every night.

    Enjoy the Vanguard you are ushering in for yourself.

  4. Mr. Pearson is a man who works for a living as much as anyone around here but is unable to afford a place to rent on the basis of his work. He sounds quite content with, and grateful for, Roomkey Project assistance that allows him a roof over his head. Mr. Pearson’s plight is precarious, to say the least.

    (Remember, a 40-hour full-time work week, 50-week full-time work year yields 2,000 hours. At $15 per hour, pre-tax income is $30,000. A one-bedroom apartment in San Jose would cost, at minimum, $2,000 per month in rental payments or $24,000 per year. See https://www.rentcafe.com/apartments-for-rent/us/ca/santa-clara-county/san-jose/?PropertyType=Apartment&Beds=One&OrderBy=RentDesc).

    Libertarian sociopaths infer from the above that Mr. Pearson is, on the one hand, manipulating the chintzy aid that passes for a social safety net (Bubbles), or a future slave to a totalitarian and Orwellian state (Kulak). Kulak says: “Once housing is a human right and no one is allowed to own their own home or, at the least no one is allowed to own someone else’s residence, all tenants will live like Mr Pearson.” Which is it? Does housing as a human right mean one is not allowed to own their own home? Or does it mean that one is not allowed to own more than one home?

    Don’t overburden your little brains on this one: housing as a human right means neither of these.

    If you have an interest in what people outside your bubble are saying about the issue, try doing some reading: https://www.housinghumanright.org/news/

    P.S. Of course property is theft. The real private property in this republic is based entirely and solely on lands stolen from indigenous peoples from coast to coast. Much of the material wealth of the founding fathers and their progeny, as well as that of the propertied classes who were their base of support, stems from that stolen land as well as the stolen lives of hundreds of thousands of African slaves and their descendants who worked that land. Is there any question about this whatsoever?

  5. Poor ECONOCLAST, lost in the wilderness of us Neanderthals. You are so smart and your writing is, well, quite persuasive and professional grade. But it is fantasyland nonsense none the less.

    No, the slaves didn’t build the United States as it is today. Perhaps exploitation of immigrants (like my family was) in the industrial revolution and more recently in the southwest of the United States (or the Welcomed Class the San Jose City Council likes to pander to is being), Democratic political machines helped flesh out the cities, cheap worker mobility in the post-depression multi-wave great migration helped undermine labor rights and scale production, unfairly distributed extracted resources were all part of building out the United States. And maybe a bit of luck with Europe committing a century long suicide. Having two oceans separating us from the crazies helps too. But the surplus value extracted from the slaves pretty much went up in smoke in the Civil War. The United States has rebuilt, repurposed, reinvented itself many times over in a very short period of time because people actually have property rights. People are free to try new things, extract a profit, or fail miserably and fade away just for someone else to try. Much of the injustice over the past 100 years or so is not because some had property rights, is that many did not. On that point, there can be little debate.

    All land is stolen by your definition as someone always occupies land someone else occupied once. The Normans booted the Anglo-Saxons, who booted the Romans and Celts, who booted whoever was there before. Pueblo booted by Navajo. The Franks booted the Gauls. The Aztecs conquered many nations, then by the Spanish who were then supplanted by Mexican Independence. The Han “unified” much of Asia, the Mongols conquered Asia, the Huns and Goths did their part, the slaves took over Haiti, and on and on and on. You have not stumbled on a profound epiphany as your writing would suggest, just human nature.

    And the US will be conquered one day by some other civilization, with their own rules on property and they will carve it up how they like. But don’t expect much different as private property rights work much better than common property.

    Even the Aztecs had property rights:

    “The Aztecs had a complex and hierarchical land ownership system, and drew sophisticated boundary maps that were used to mark different types of land and settle disputes.”

    “Nobles could own land on a restricted and unrestricted basis. Nobles obtained land by purchasing it from other nobles or as a gift from the emperor for service to the Aztec empire. Purchased land could be sold or willed.”

    So even the “Noble Indigenous” didn’t share your little dreamscape.

    In the reality you exist in, in which improved property must be built, insured, inspected, taxed, maintained, energized with gas and electric, supplied with potable water and pipes for sewage, stocked with appliances to cook food that is stored in appliances which keep food from spoiling, we have a set of property rights rules that create as close to equilibrium as possible. And we abstract labor and objects in this reality into currency, otherwise known as dollars. You want to access improved property with all these services, you must pay dollars for it. Or you don’t get access to it.

    In 1900, the California population was 1.4M and in 2000, the population was 34M. It took the Aztecs a few centuries to get to 25M. And of course that really was just conquered lands and forced tribute. Subjugation of their conquered neighbors is not really a civilization of 25M. But anyway. That’s jobs, retail, industry, homes, roads, clubs, airports, parks, electric generation for 32.6 million people in 100 years. An amazing accomplishment in a world with little electricity and no internet. California built that on property rights and common infrastructure that enabled economic growth and individual opportunity. The property rights system we had in California enabled that scaling without slaves, which the Aztecs did have by the way. Californian settlers built an amazing civilization which many different people from all over the world have benefited from on land the Spanish or Mexicans thought was very not valuable enough to fight for or develop in any real way.

    So until your fantasy gets realized and humans somehow lose their nature to own, conquer and are no longer motivated by self-improvement and profit, you are going to have to pay your rent. And if you want to live on common property, your landlord will be Newsom, Biden, or Trump much like Mr. Pearson here. And they will fix your toilet when they damn well please. I’ll take some grandma landlord over Trump any day, at least she needs the rent check.

  6. > The real private property in this republic is based entirely and solely on lands stolen from indigenous peoples from coast to coast.

    The indigenous people stole it from other indigenous people. Who, in turn, stole it from other indigenous people. And so on, and so on, and so on, to the dawn of history.

    Until some wise, visionary tribal chieftain or king somewhere said: “Wait! If we cut out all this damn tribal warfare and pillaging by hunter gatherers, and let farmers and herders OWN property, and PRODUCE food on it, and TRADE the food for stuff that allows people to produce MORE FOOD, we won’t have periodic famines! We’ll be able to have a reliable food supply, and people can go on to do other useful things, like invent automobiles and airplanes.”

    And since then, tribal identity politics and socialism have never been the same.

    > P.S. Of course property is theft.

    Tribal socialism is PERMANENT INSTITUTIONALIZED theft.

    Theft is a way of life under socialism.

    “Redistribution” means “redistribution of stolen property”.

  7. If you haven’t noticed, Bubble, European settlers in the the British colonies of North America were not “indigenous people.” Your rear end, and your incessantly flapping lips, are physically situated on unceded Ohlone lands (http://www.muwekma.org/index.html; https://kanyonkonsulting.com/contemporary-ohlone-history/). The Spanish and other settlers who barged in on the Oholone in the late 18th century noted that there was such an abundance of food–massive quantities of easily harvested mussels, clams, oysters and abalone, in particular–that they couldn’t believe their eyes (https://theoldnewway.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/the-ohlone-way.pdf). There was no need to fight other peoples for food and there was no warlike traditions.

    That was before the Spanish forcefully established missions based on captured and imprisoned native labor. Remember, the mission walls were to keep captured natives in–not prevent them from entering (https://www.sfgate.com/opinion/openforum/article/The-dark-terrible-secret-of-California-s-missions-2685666.php). So stop your babbling about things of which you know little to nothing.

  8. > So stop your babbling about things of which you know little to nothing.

    It would probably more efficient if you would just publish a list of people that you think should be allowed to speak.

    Socialism is all about efficiency.

  9. > Your rear end, and your incessantly flapping lips, are physically situated on unceded Ohlone lands.

    Dear Facenco:

    And where is YOUR rear end physically situated?

    Are you an Ohlone?

    You’re NOT ? ! ! ! !

    Well then, get your ass off of STOLEN Ohlone land and go back to where you came from.

    And if you ARE an Ohlone, get your ass off of stolen Neanderthal land and go back to where you came from.

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