Contra Costa, like other counties in the Bay Area, offers free hotel stays for people who don’t have a safe place to quarantine and are confirmed positive for coronavirus or considered “under investigation” by public health officials while they await test results.
So far, the county has placed more than 300 high-risk people experiencing homelessness in hotels under the state’s "Project Roomkey" initiative, according to health officials. But Tzvieli said only a few patients with homes of their own have taken up that option.
“For most people, we have found a way to help them effectively isolate in their home,” he said. “But it’s good to have that option ... the benefit is to the patient, their housemates and the entire community knowing that the people have a safe place to stay.”
Aleman said she tried to find another place to live before the pandemic. But she said smaller apartments, even in less desirable neighborhoods, were too expensive.
Under normal circumstances, she and her family pitch in to cover the $2,600 in monthly rent for their house. Aleman’s portion for the room she shares with her daughters is $850.
But after Aleman’s work as an office cleaner dried up in March and other adults in her household also lost income, the family worries about how they’ll pay June’s rent.
Aleman considered applying for unemployment benefits, for which she is eligible, but believed her request would be denied because the state requires a valid work authorization, and her work permit was set to expire soon.
It wasn’t until this month that she learned U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services automatically extends work permits for asylum-seekers and other immigrants who properly file renewal requests, as the agency takes several months to process those applications. Aleman submitted her renewal request in April, about a month before her permit expired.
For now, without having secured wage replacement benefits, Aleman relies on nearby food banks to contribute to the staples her family prepares: beans, fried rice, cheese, eggs and Aleman’s favorite — fresh, hand-made tortillas.
Living together helps Aleman’s family save on rent and other expenses, and they are able to support one another by taking turns to cook meals, clean the home and care for each other’s children.
“We live as family and that’s a great help,” Aleman said. “We have each other.”
Aleman is also relying on her relatives in a new way. Recently, she started feeling sick and experiencing shortness of breath and bad headaches, she said.
Like her daughter and aunt before her, Aleman tested positive for COVID-19 this month and became one of the nearly 37,000 Latinos so far confirmed with the coronavirus in California.