SGV Tribune

Project Roomkey is saving lives in the coronavirus pandemic

And then come the paranoids, against whom we must take a stand. 

International crises have a way of bringing out the best in us — and, you know, the worst.

In the coronavirus pandemic, the best of us are like your Greatest Generation grandpa. The one who took his steel net-laying, U-boat-catching Navy ship in so close to the Calais waterfront that the German snipers were taking pot shots at him when he went up on deck for a smoke. “Come and get me, Nazis!” he shouted into the damp night air while the bullets pinged in the rigging.

Our era’s Gramps, the ones who will be celebrated in history for winning this new world war at great personal peril, are the nurses, the physicians, the EMTs, the cooks, the truck drivers, the mailmen who saved our lives and brought us stuff during the seemingly endless hibernation. Oh, and the federal health officials trying to do their jobs who have to listen to an obviously incompetent president suggest shooting up bleach as a surefire cure.

Sad to say that World War II brought out the worst in Americans, too. The Lindberghs among us, with their fascist desires for appeasement. The government policies that turned away ships filled with Jewish refugees during the covered-up Holocaust. Right here in California, the massive societal crime that was not only the rounding up of all Japanese Americans and the sending of them to concentration camps — it was the actions and inactions of locals who allowed their former neighbors’ properties and businesses to be stolen from them while they were locked up at Manzanar.

The worst of it so far in this war is the fools ginned up by Fox News marching on state capitols demanding the right to kill the rest of us because they are ornery after five weeks at home.

And next come the NIMBYs with their incorrect belief that helping the unfortunate puts the rest of us in danger.

Project Roomkey is the joint effort by the state of California and Los Angeles city and county to secure currently empty hotel and motel rooms to house homeless people who are even more at risk than the rest of us for contracting the coronavirus.

The goal is to help flatten the curve and to preserve hospital capacity — oh, and to save lives in a crazy-deadly viral pandemic.

It’s not a matter, NIMBYs, of putting a bunch of Typhoid Marys in your back yards. The homeless being housed have not tested positive for the virus. And if they do, wouldn’t you rather they could recuperate by themselves in a room instead of out on the street?

This is one state program that actually is a win-win-win. First, protecting some of the most vulnerable — which also, of course, protects you and me. Second, allowing social workers to have a much better chance of getting these people permanent housing when this pandemic passes since they are available for counseling in one place in which they are fed and have access to showers and beds. Third, as you can imagine, hoteliers are thrilled with the $75 a day per room they’re getting for their formerly empty businesses. California also got FEMA to reimburse 75 percent of the cost for this life-saving mission, a model for other states.

And then come the paranoids, against whom we must take a stand.

Good for Los Angeles County for filing suit against Norwalk over that city’s efforts to block use of motels for Roomkey housing for the homeless. Good for U.S. District Judge David O. Carter for ruling that during this state of emergency counties can house those at risk. Good for L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger for ruling that such practical steps as Project Roomkey are “expressly authorized” during the pandemic.

There’s so much bad out there. There are the heartless. And then there are those like the Project Roomkey workers protecting the health of everyone in California’s communities, especially the most vulnerable. I know which ones will be judged as the best of us when the histories are written.

Larry Wilson is on the Southern California News Group editorial board.