SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KRON) — The coronavirus pandemic is presenting California with a unique opportunity to house the homeless.

Governor Gavin Newsom announced the state secured about 7,000 hotel rooms to help house the homeless during the COVID-19 crisis.

At his daily briefing Friday in front of a hotel, the governor says the state is almost halfway to its goal of 15,000 hotel rooms in a new program called “Project Room Key”.

“What we want to do is relieve the stress in our shelter system so we can separate individuals and relieve the impact of our medical delivery system,” Newsom said. “If left unaddressed, we leave the most vulnerable to be exposed to this virus.”

The rooms will be provided to homeless who are at high risk, have tested positive or have been exposed to COVID-19.

FEMA will reimburse the state 75% of the cost.

Newsom says 869 unsheltered Californians now have roofs over their heads in hotels.

Leader of the state’s homelessness task force and Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg says this effort helps speed up a sheltering process that could have taken the state years to do.

“This crisis has given us together an unprecedented opportunity to move up that timeline in a most appropriate and aggressive way,” he said.

“Project Room Key” builds on the state’s work that began earlier this year to purchase and provide hundreds of emergency trailers as temporary shelter to homeless across California.

“This was the crisis before the COVID-19 crisis and we are not walking away from meeting that crisis head on.”

The state is aiming to keep homelessness at the top of its priority list.

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