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COVID-19

Life in a hotel turned homeless shelter

Amy Scott and Bennett Purser May 25, 2020
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A California hotel room houses a tenant through Project Roomkey. Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Life in a hotel turned homeless shelter

Amy Scott and Bennett Purser May 25, 2020
Heard on:
A California hotel room houses a tenant through Project Roomkey. Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

A California initiative called Project Roomkey planned to rent 15,000 hotel rooms to house homeless residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. New state records show that nearly half of the rooms are still empty since the project launched in early April.

Kara Carnahan is the director of programs for Abode Services, a nonprofit agency that works to provide housing for the homeless in the San Francisco Bay Area. The agency has placed nearly 400 people in hotel shelters since the COVID-19 crisis began. She now spends her days managing the services in a Radisson hotel near the Oakland airport.

Carnahan spoke with Marketplace’s Amy Scott back in April, when the project was just getting started. They spoke again for an update and talked about what life has been like inside the hotel.

Employees of Abode Services in the Radisson hotel in Oakland, California.

“The lobby is where a lot of our action happens. It’s where people get meals, meet with their case managers,” Carnahan said. “It’s where we have shelter monitors that can provide them with clothing, hygiene supplies, dog food. We have about 50 pets here.”

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

So what’s up with “Zoom fatigue”?

It’s a real thing. The science backs it up — there’s new research from Stanford University. So why is it that the technology can be so draining? Jeremy Bailenson with Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab puts it this way: “It’s like being in an elevator where everyone in the elevator stopped and looked right at us for the entire elevator ride at close-up.” Bailenson said turning off self-view and shrinking down the video window can make interactions feel more natural and less emotionally taxing.

How are Americans spending their money these days?

Economists are predicting that pent-up demand for certain goods and services is going to burst out all over as more people get vaccinated. A lot of people had to drastically change their spending in the pandemic because they lost jobs or had their hours cut. But at the same time, most consumers “are still feeling secure or optimistic about their finances,” according to Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, which regularly surveys shoppers. A lot of people enjoy browsing in stores, especially after months of forced online shopping. And another area expecting a post-pandemic boost: travel.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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