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San Diego County will end troubled COVID-19 hotel program

Chris VonKroog waits to cross Barnett Avenue in San Diego, Dec. 15, 2021. VonKroog has been staying with his dog, Bobo, at a COVID-19 sheltering hotel in Old Town since January. (Zoë Meyers/inewsource)

San Diego County will stop using hotels as COVID-19 shelters by March 31 — more than two years after the troubled program began isolating people with nowhere else to go — because the federal money used to pay for it is expected to run out, said Housing Director David Estrella.

Costing at least $5.2 million a month, the hotel program is the first of its kind and has been praised for its success in preventing the spread of COVID-19. But inewsource reporting over the past 18 months has revealed mismanagement, neglect and harassment of guests staying at the hotels.

Estrella said the plan is to connect the remaining residents with other housing options by the end of March, sending people to a homeless shelter as a last resort. Officials have already given nearly 100 emergency housing vouchers to people who are at risk of homelessness.

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Chris VonKroog, one of the hotel guests who received a voucher, worries about where he’ll wind up. He said while the voucher gives him financial support, it does nothing for his credit, and health issues prevent him from going to a homeless shelter.