Tulare County gives homeless residents a room key

County board of supervisors approves 10-year $4.3 million permanent housing program at 99 Palms hotel

VISALIA – Once the coronavirus began to ravage the country, and then Tulare County, the homeless were clearly among the most at risk. And over the last few months Tulare County has managed to house nearly 100 homeless per night under Project Roomkey.

“We’ve connected folks with services that had been completely out of the system to this point and kept many without a place to stay, out of harm’s way,” Chaz Felix, Tulare County’s Homeless Initiatives Program Coordinator, said.

Felix said that since the county is now “acting as the largest de facto homeless shelter” in the area, they are taking the next step by offering permanent housing for the county’s homeless. Last Tuesday, July 21, the Tulare County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a 10 year lease agreement to provide 56 housing units at 99 Palm in Tulare, one of the four hotels currently being used under Project Roomkey.

“I have to say, Chaz has been extremely instrumental in this partnership and going into this I had a lot of hesitation there were some drawbacks that I saw when I was applying for this partnership…But I can definitely say this has been a successful partnership between the both of us,” Veena Doijode, owner of Kaweah Management Company who is purchasing 99 Palms, said.

Felix said the county’s Health and Human Services Agency is working with, the Kings-Tulare Homeless Alliance and the Housing Authority of Tulare County to utilize permanent housing vouchers to fill the 56 units. The program, expected to cost no more than $4.3 million, will cover the rent for hotel ease and allow HHSA to build a reserve fund for the program.

District 3 board supervisor and chair of the county’s homeless task force, Amy Shuklian said that Felix has done a great job of immersing himself in the project and that this is a “silver lining in a dark cloud” because Project Roomkey was created in the pandemic.

“I’m fully supportive of this. I think this is going to be a way to go also in the future and I support you a hundred percent on this,” Shuklian said.

District 2 board supervisor and chairman of the board, Pete Vander Poel said he had received several calls from residents asking about security. And said that he believes Project Roomkey has had success because they have had security on the premises.

“We’ll have a boots on the ground person during regular business hours and our staff is on call in case anything goes wrong 24/7,” Felix said.

He added that the county has fostered a positive relationship with the security company they contract with. They let managers know when there are problems in need of attention.

“We’re going to have office space there for our case managers and staff, whether that’s going to be Health and Human Services staff out there to be there on site,” Felix said.

Vander Poel asked as well where the homeless will be coming from. Felix said that while the hotel is in Tulare, the program is countywide and therefore is open to all of the county’s homeless.

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