Homeless evicted from Project Roomkey hotels in Sacramento

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Donald Lowery, 73, held a cane in one hand on Monday. With the other, he rolled a heavy tire down a street in the Foothill Farms neighborhood of Sacramento County. He stopped several times to take breaks to wipe the sweat from his forehead and catch his breath.

Lowery was replacing the tire on his camper van so he could sleep in it after being kicked out of the Project Roomkey program in the state of California and Sacramento County. After he finished his hospital stay with a fall, staff told him he was not allowed to stay at a hotel in Rancho Cordova, which housed homeless men and women for pandemic, he said.

“It was quite stressful,” Lowery said, recalling the moment last week when he found out he would have to leave the hotel, where he had been staying for over a year. “I was having trouble breathing. Where was I going to go? How was I going to get my things out? “

Lowery was one of some 250 people who have been kicked out of the three Sacramento Project Roomkey hotels since they opened in spring 2020, according to county spokeswoman Janna Haynes. Of these, around 65 people were deported due to criminal activity. The others were asked to leave because of the breach of various rules.

Shelter staff told Lowery to leave because he had a visitor, which is against hotel rules, Lowery said. But the visiting woman, Jami Arbuckle, was not just a visitor, he said. She would come to the hotel to do Lowery’s groceries, bring him food and pick him up for his doctor’s appointments, he said.

“I tried to tell them that she’s a helper, a babysitter for me,” Lowery said. “I can’t even put my socks on.”

Jami Arbuckle, 52, left, sobs as he explains his friend Donald Lowery, 73, right, is homeless and in poor health and was kicked out of a motel after returning from Sacramento hospital recently. He is one of more than 250 people who have been evicted from the three Project Roomkey motels in Sacramento. “I can handle him a lot better than him. He’s not as strong as he used to be, ”she said. Renée C. Byer [email protected]

Lowery, who was run over by a van last year, has a broken leg, a broken back, high blood pressure, narcolepsy and many other health issues. He is carrying a backpack full of medicine.

The “no visitors” rule is one of 20 rules that guests of all three Project Roomkey motels must follow. Guests must be back to their rooms by 8 p.m. each evening, unless prior arrangements are made, must obtain approval for time spent outside their rooms, must allow staff to enter for ‘checks rooms ”and must wear a resident badge each time they leave their rooms. They also cannot smoke in rooms, cannot be “aggressive” towards staff or guests, and cannot damage property.

The purpose of the rules, including the “no visitors” rule, is to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and to maintain a safe environment, Haynes said.

“If we freely allow strangers on site, it could generate COVID outbreaks and potentially compromise the safety of all participants due to potentially unwanted guests who are not held to any consequences for rule violations,” said Haynes in an email. “We have very high tolerance and try to give people lots of chances to be successful and stay safe in our program, unfortunately we have to ask people to leave who endanger others or affect safety and operation. from the refuge. “

Donald Lowery, who was recently released from hospital, balances his meds as he checks his blood pressure on June 14 in Sacramento. “I was getting irrelevant and at 242 I was scared,” he said of his blood pressure. He is one of more than 250 people who have been evicted from the three Project Roomkey motels in Sacramento. Renée C. Byer [email protected]

Homeless people staying in motels in California

About 18% of the 1,338 people who have spent time at Roomkey motels since their opening in spring 2020 have been evicted. Many, like Lowery, are back on the streets. Bob Erlenbusch of the Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness said that percentage is too high.

“For almost 20% of everyone who participated in Roomkey to become homeless again seems pretty inhumane,” said Erlenbusch. “People should be treated with dignity and not have all of these restrictive rules… the only reason people should be asked to leave is if they are violent or are doing something illegal. “

Now that the pandemic has lasted for over a year, many people feel lonely and need to be socialized, said Joe Smith, director of advocacy for Loaves and Fishes.

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“You are in the process of getting your entire life divorced to stay in this room,” Smith said. “Been in this place for so long… you’ve got that itch, you crave company.” How long are you going to expect people to live like this?

As of May 21, 303 people were staying at all three Roomkey motels in Sacramento – one downtown, one in the River District, and one in Rancho Cordova. As of May 28, about 271 people have moved into stable accommodation, while another 222 have moved into temporary accommodation after staying at Roomkey motels and Cal Expo trailers since opening in spring 2020, according to a backgrounder on the program.

The Sacramento Roomkey motels are expected to remain open at least until August. Haynes said the rules will remain in place despite the state lifting numerous business closures, social distancing requirements, capacity limits and mask requirements on Tuesday.

After rolling a tire on the sidewalk in hopes of finding someone to help him replace his flat tire, 73-year-old Donald Lowery leans against his camper van he tries to fix on June 14 , at the end of Hamilton Street in Sacramento. He was recently released from the hospital and says he was kicked out of the Comfort Inn and Suites in Rancho Cordova, where he had been a guest as part of the Roomkey Project since last May. Renée C. Byer [email protected]

Donald Lowery, 73, rests on a cooler he uses to store his medication on Hamilton Street on Monday, June 14, 2021, in Sacramento. He has been homeless since Friday when he returned from the hospital and was kicked out of his room at the Comfort Inn and Suites in Rancho Cordova. He is one of more than 250 people who have been evicted from the three Project Roomkey motels in Sacramento. It is a state program that Sacramento County administers. Renée C. Byer [email protected]

This story was originally published June 17, 2021 5:00 a.m.

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Theresa Clift covers Sacramento City Hall. Prior to joining The Bee in 2018, she covered local government in newspapers in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin. She grew up in Michigan and graduated from Central Michigan University.

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