The Times podcast: California put homeless people in hotel rooms. Then what?

Project Roomkey
Through Project Roomkey, Eliel Fuentes stayed in Econo Motor Inn in North Hills, shown above in May.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

To Project Roomkey’s architects, the program was a no-brainer. Thousands of hotel rooms were empty because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And there were thousands of people who lacked homes and seemed especially vulnerable to the coronavirus. The plan to put the people in the empty rooms and pay the hotel owners seemed to solve two problems at once.

Sounds easy, right? But in practice, not so much. The program helped some people but certainly not everyone.


Today we examine Project Roomkey — its promises, achievements, shortcomings and future. We talk to L.A. Times reporters Benjamin Oreskes and Doug Smith, who have covered the program from the start. We also talk to the head of a nonprofit that helps people transition out of homelessness.

Host: Gustavo Arellano

Guests: L.A. Times Metro reporters Benjamin Oreskes and Doug Smith and LA Family Housing Chief Executive Stephanie Klasky-Gamer

More reading:

L.A. had a golden opportunity to house homeless people in hotels — but fell short of its goal

L.A. County won’t expand program to shelter homeless people in hotels

Federal aid allows L.A. to extend hotel-room rentals for homeless people

About The Times

“The Times” is made by columnist Gustavo Arellano, senior producer Denise Guerra and producers Shannon Lin, Marina Peña, Melissa Kaplan and Ashlea Brown. Our engineer is Mario Diaz. Our editors are Lauren Raab and Shani O. Hilton. Our theme song was composed by Andrew Eapen.