COVID-19 Alternative Housing

The City’s response to COVID-19 includes establishing the COVID-19 Alternative Housing Program to provide emergency, temporary housing and shelter options for individuals who are directly affected by the coronavirus, or who are at high risk of adverse impacts if they contract the virus. The majority of the these units are for the City's most vulnerable population: people experiencing homelessness. The City is also providing temporary housing to individuals who work outside of their homes. The City is using private hotel rooms as well as a variety of other types of facilities to establish these safe spaces for residents to isolate, quarantine, or shelter in place.


Priority Populations

The City has several priority populations for COVID-19 Alternative Housing:

The four popluations are: COVID-Poisitive/PUIs, COVID-Status Unknown (Asymptomatic & Untested Homeless), COVID-Recovered, and Front-Line Workers.
Visit the Front-Line Workers and High Risk Communities page to learn more about Alternative Housing for those groups, including counts of occupied and available rooms and demographic information about the individuals served in these settings.
All subsequent data on this page focuses on individuals experiencing homelessness or who are marginally housed, including COVID-Positive/PUIs, COVID-Recovered, and Vulnerable Homeless Persons.


COVID-19 Alternative Housing Capacity

The City has established a variety of COVID-19 Alternative Housing options, including private hotels, congregate sites, trailers and recreational vehicles (RVs). Many sites have on-site medical and behavioral health staff as needed for guests. Public health and human service officials assess and determine the most appropriate housing option and on-site services to meet the needs of the different populations.
The interactive dashboards display occupied and unoccupied active Alternative Housing units by population group (left), as well as Alternative Housing units that are active and in preparation and will be available soon by type of facility (right). If you hover over the char on the left, you will see a icon of branching downwards arrows: click on that button to see the occupied and unoccupied unit counts but not only population, but also facility type.
Click within the dashboards to explore the data more fully and see how these two charts interact with each other. For example, clicking the Vulnerable Homeless Persons bar on the left chart will highlight in the right chart the units per facility type that are active and in preparation for that population.
Site Usage and Flow
There is a flow into and out of sites used for individuals isolating with COVID-19. When people with COVID-19 recover from the disease, they may go back to their home, or be transferred to a post-COVID congregate space or another hotel site. This allows the City to provide rooms for newly diagnosed COVID-19 individuals and persons under investigation. Congregate settings are used for both COVID-19 positive or COVID-19 recovered persons experiencing homelessness.
For asymptomatic persons experiencing homelessness, the City is actively developing new sites to ensure the most vulnerable have safe spaces to shelter in place for the duration of the emergency. Sites for this purpose include hotels and Trailer/RV sites.
Front-line workers may access hotel sites for a two-week respite period, thus ensuring a regular flow into and out of the sites designated for this purpose.
Demographics by Population Served
The data below provides demographic information for individuals accessing the City’s COVID-19 Alternative Housing Program. The filters at the top of the table display demographics based on the setting where individuals are served.


Assessing Unmet Needs for COVID-19 Alternative Housing

Front-line Worker Sites: current COVID-19 Alternative Housing supply is sufficient
COVID-Positive and PUI Sites: current COVID-19 Alternative Housing supply is sufficient
The need for additional COVID-19 Alternative Housing sites can be influenced by external factors. For example, an outbreak in a congregate homeless shelter or a large-scale testing initiative may create a new surge in need for isolation sites for patients diagnosed with COVID-19 who are homeless or marginally housed. Subsequently, while some of these individuals could return home after isolating, individuals who are homeless will need a safe shelter option that is separate from asymptomatic individuals who may still be at risk of contracting COVID-19.

Sites for Vulnerable Persons Experiencing Homelessness: 
  • Sheltered: current COVID-19 Alternative Housing supply is sufficient
  • Unsheltered: estimated 2,200 individuals meeting vulnerability criteria
Asymptomatic people experiencing homelessness who are 60 or older or have been diagnosed with a COVID-vulnerable medical condition are prioritized for placement into a hotel room to safely shelter in place. The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH) has followed CDC guidance to safely space the beds within existing homeless shelters, and as part of that effort has moved nearly all vulnerable individuals who want to move into COVID-19 Alternative Housing sites. These individuals are reflected in the data presented above.
 While HSH estimates there are approximately 2,200 unsheltered individuals meeting the vulnerability criteria, some people experiencing homelessness will prefer to remain on the street or within HSH’s Temporary Shelter sites (shelters and/or navigation centers) despite the efforts of nonprofit service providers, the Homeless Outreach Team, Shelter Health and street-based health care providers.

Sites for Individuals who are Marginally Housed: unknown need for COVID-19 Alternative Housing  
Individuals living in single-room occupancy hotels (SROs) often share bathrooms, kitchens and other common areas. In the event of a COVID-19 case detected in a specific SRO, the Department of Public Health's Contact Tracing and Epidemiology teams will make a case-by-case determination of which residents should be offered space at a COVID-19 Alternative Housing site.  

Housing Pipeline

The City is developing a variety of hotel, congregate, and RV/trailer options to fulfill emergency sheltering needs. The Human Services Agency (HSA) solicited interest from hotels in March 2020 and over 80 hotels responded. See the data above for the current pipeline of sites under contract. Additionally, the City is actively negotiating new contracts with hotel executives daily, with a focus on hotels:
  • with less than 150 rooms, because these are programmatically easier to manage, and
  • with ventilation systems where air does not travel between rooms, to diminish the risk of clients infecting each other. 
Many hotels are interested in working with the City on COVID-19 Alternative Housing, though some preferred to only provide services to front-line workers. As programmatic needs change over the course of the City’s response to COVID-19, new types of hotels may be needed, and the City may need to explore whether and how to use larger hotel sites or find others not currently in the pipeline.
The City continues to work with hotels through a voluntary contracting process, and has not taken any steps to commandeer hotels at this time.