Advocates say homeless hotel program discriminates against disabled people in L.A.

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David William, 63, returns to his room at a Project Roomkey hotel in Los Angeles. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

David William, 63, returns to his room at a Project Roomkey hotel in Los Angeles. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

program that has moved thousands of homeless people into hotel and motel rooms to protect them from the coronavirus discriminates against some of the most needy and vulnerable living on the streets, a group of advocates for elderly and disabled residents has charged.

In a scathing letter sent this month to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and copied to dozens of city and county officials, the advocates alleged that in selecting which people to move into hotel rooms through Project Roomkey, the agency has deliberately excluded those who cannot handle on their own basic activities, such as going to the toilet or getting out of bed.

Citing a written LAHSA policy obtained from staffers at the agency, members of the Los Angeles Aging Advocacy Coalition and others who signed the letter said LAHSA is violating a host of federal and state laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act and the federal Fair Housing Act. Before the pandemic, the group had long argued that the city’s homeless care system is not equipped to assist people who are unable to manage basic self-care because of physical disabilities such as an amputated leg.

“The result of this policy is a disproportionate denial of housing and housing services to the very older adults and people with disabilities who are most at risk of severe symptoms or death as a result of COVID-19,” they said. “We have heard from many service providers that they have been unable to obtain [Project Roomkey] approval for their clients who are older individuals with a range of disabilities.”

Read the full story at LATimes.com.

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