Project Homekey provides senior citizens with two hotels for housing

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Niamh Marren

The TownePlace Suites is one of the hotels purchased by Project Homekey and plans to provide housing for seniors.

The Board of Supervisors of San Mateo County voted to utilize $33 million granted by the state to provide 170 rooms to low-income, homeless, or medically frail senior citizens on Nov. 5. 

The Board of Supervisors sent out a proposal to the entire hotel industry in the county, getting 10 responses. Looking for specific standards of what would work with the county’s needs regarding cost and the seniors’ need for housing, they decided upon purchasing the Pacific Inn and the TownePlace Suites for long-term housing.

To be housed in one of these facilities, one must be over 62 years old and be able to live in an independent living facility. The Department of Housing, having a list of seniors that fit these criteria, works closely with the chosen vendor, who then screen the incoming seniors to find the best match for each facility.

With San Mateo County being the fastest aging county in the state, the challenges of providing care and housing for seniors are two of the top priorities for County Manager Mike Callagy.

“With the astronomical escalation of rent in this county, many find themselves homeless, living in their car, or being forced out onto the streets in an age where they’re most vulnerable and may have an illness. […] We feel that purchasing the two hotels was a great deal because we can immediately house 98 seniors who would otherwise be in jeopardy of losing their home, and this gives them an opportunity to have permanent housing,” Callagy said.

We were allowed by the state to not use this for homeless purposes, but rather go right to permanent housing for low income seniors. We’re probably one of the few in the state that’s been able to do this”

— Mike Callagy

Especially with the pandemic, establishing safety regulations to ensure the seniors’ health at these facilities is one of the challenges Callagy and the board have to tackle.

“If we were to see one person get COVID-19, we’d send the medical staff in right away to make sure that there are protocols and procedures in place to make sure that it doesn’t spread throughout the facility,” Callagy said.

Joley Bove, a junior, professes worry for seniors who do not have proper housing because studies have shown that they are more susceptible to severe symptoms of COVID-19.

“If seniors couldn’t afford their rent, providing safe housing where they could stay healthy is especially important because they are at risk of having more severe conditions from COVID-19,” Bove said.

Not only is senior housing providing support and care for seniors in need, but it provides a model of kindness that everyone in the community can adhere to, and the youth can look up to.

“A community providing for their seniors can demonstrate a good example for the younger generations as it builds a greater sense of community because everyone is taking care of each other,” Sofie Hai, a junior, said.

Many do not believe that housing or helping these seniors will help change their life choices, especially the homeless and drug users. However, this is a misconception as previous housing for these seniors has proven to effectively transition them into a stable environment. The Pacific Inn plans to follow suit.

“For the Pacific Inn, some of the homeless may have alcohol or drug addiction, they might have mental health issues, or be chronically unemployed. Before you can work on any of those issues, you’ve got to get them stabilized with housing. Once you get them housed, that’s when we see these folks have a great deal of success transitioning back into a stable environment,” Callagy said.