Project Roomkey Records 49 Deaths in LA Hotels

Airtel Plaza Hotel at Van Nuys Airport (Airtel Plaza Hotel)

A Los Angeles County program to house the homeless in hotels has recorded 49 resident deaths since its inception at the start of the pandemic.

The statewide Project Roomkey program was set up to house vulnerable people in motels and hotels to protect them from exposure to the coronavirus.

The tally includes eight people who died while staying at the Airtel Plaza hotel in Van Nuys Airport, according to the Los Angeles Times. The document followed Project Roomkey deaths throughout this spring with data from the LA County Medical Examiner and the LA Homeless Services Authority.

One of the residents died of coronary heart disease, others died of drug overdoses, while another died of “natural causes” offsite, according to the Times. Airtel Plaza, one of the largest hotels participating in the Roomkey project, recorded the highest number of deaths.

California and the county rolled out the federally-funded program in April 2020. In addition to protecting people, the program also pumped money into the California hotel industry, which has all but been shut down.

But the Roomkey project was riddled with problems, including a lack of beds to meet demand and allegations that people with disabilities were excluded from the program.

The Roomkey project was supposed to end at the end of last year, but federal funds allowed the county to continue it until September. Airtel reopened under a new operator in April.

A new advocacy group, Unhoused Tenants Against Carceral Housing, along with Airtel residents, have complained about a number of issues, saying attendees are under curfews and harassed, according to the report.

“To tell the truth, I would be better off if I had stayed on the streets,” former Airtel resident Jennifer Blake told the newspaper.

[LAT] – Isabelle Farr

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