Welcome to the Covid Hotel
Unveiling unexpected lessons about healthcare for the homeless that emerged from LA County-run quaranne sites during the Covid crisis

March 9 – December 14, 2024
Open Thu. Fri. Sat. 2-5pm and by appointment

About the Project

Los Angeles Poverty Department is pleased to announce the Saturday, March 9 opening of its new Skid Row History Museum and Archive exhibition, Welcome to the Covid Hotel with a public reception from 4-7 pm. Welcome to the Covid Hotel reveals the exceptional innovations and successes of a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals who ran LA County Health Department’s emergency Quarantine and Isolation (QI) sites for houseless Covid patients and people exposed to the virus in shelters. The evening will feature a 15-minute excerpt of a work-in-progress performance by LA Poverty Department at 5 pm, as well as an opportunity to meet some of the frontline heroes who staffed the QI sites.

In spring 2020, the LA County Department of Health mobilized resources to ameliorate the devastation of the public health crisis on the region’s most vulnerable population: people experiencing homelessness. Makeshift QI sites were set up at various locations, including then vacant hotels and motels. More than 10,000 people quarantined at the sites. There were very few deaths, and once released, 93% of the patients needing housing were sheltered in nursing homes, recovery programs, and transitional programs leading to permanent housing—a remarkable rate.

Welcome to the Covid Hotel unveils the unconventional approaches that engendered this success— holistic care coordinated among typically siloed practitioners, harm reduction, and housing first practices, along with an uncommon level of interpersonal care, steeped in empathy and compassion. The exhibition recreates elements of the facilities at a motel-turned-QI site and features video recordings of the medical staff telling how their work saved lives, transformed paDent care, and got people housed.

“The lessons we learned about the power of integrated care is the real gift that emerged from this experience,” said Dr. Sudarsky. “This model successfully merged specialty silos in housing and healthcare to help vulnerable Angelenos get swift access to care. In other words, when health and housing are prioritized as a human right for an enDre community, everyone is better off.”

“This exhibition focuses on the secret sauce—the spirit of the QI workers—their commitment, passion, and courage. Their ability to improvise when so many certainties crumbled. The things they discovered and employed everyday were broad departures from business-as-usual convention. The successes they saw led to a belief that the model of care they discovered and provided can be scaled up to address the twin problems of housing and healthcare.” said John Malpede, LAPD Artistic Director.

Project research materials and public activity documentation from Welcome to the Covid Hotel will be preserved and made publicly available in the museum’s archive.
For information, contact [email protected].

Conversations / Panels

A series of panel discussions kicked off at the Museum on Wednesday, March 27 with Adversity Generates Innovations, featuring Dr. Jennifer Sudarsky, M.D., who served as Medical Director of the QI sites from April 2021 until their closure in June 2022; with Marissa Axelrod, RN and Alternative Healing Practitioner, who was one of the first staff at the original QI site; Dr. Emily Thomas, Star Clinic Medical Director, Housing for Health; and Soma Snakeoil, Co-Founder and Executive Director of The Sidewalk Project, which improvised responses to help people living on the streets survive the pandemic. The panel was moderated by Clancey Cornell, a clinical social worker and member of LAPD’s archive staff whose interviews are featured in the exhibition.

Housing is Healthcare (Part 1) – April 11, 2024
Panel/conversation with Heidi Behforouz, MD Chief Medical Officer, Housing For Health, LA County Department of Health Services, Angi Enriquez, RN, PHN, Permanent Supportive Housing Supervisor, Housing For Health LA County Department of Health Services, and Steve Diaz, Skid Row activist. moderated by Clancey Cornell, a clinical social worker and member of LAPD’s archive staff whose interviews are featured in the exhibition.

“Housing is Healthcare (Part )” is intended to highlight the experiences of frontline workers involved with LA County’s Quarantine and Isolation (QI) sites during the COVID-19 pandemic and to explore lessons learned about how to expeditiously place and maintain homeless individuals successfully in housing. Key topics include housing placement and retention strategies, Housing First successes and failures, anticipating post-placement challenges, the role of permanent supportive housing on the housing continuum, best practices for ongoing support, and markers of successful transition, including measurement criteria and anticipatory strategies.

Housing is Healthcare (Part 2) – May 22

The panel will feature LA County’s Quarantine and Isolation (QI) site staff, Tina Juarez, mental health clinician (Department of Mental Health), Bianca Martinez, social worker (First to Serve). Joining them in conversation is Molly Rysman, Housing for Health (LA County Department of Health Services), who is a principle in envisioning and realizing the Skid Row Community Action Plan. Moderated by Clancey Cornell, a clinical social worker and member of LAPD’s archive staff whose interviews are featured in the exhibition.

The conversation, Housing is Healthcare (Part 2) is intended to highlight the experiences of frontline workers involved with LA County’s Quarantine and Isolation (QI) sites during the COVID-19 pandemic and to explore how best practices of the QI sites can and are being implemented to provide needed healthcare to houseless people and how the provision of healthcare is an opportunity to get people housed. The QI model brought medical professionals, mental health professionals and social workers together to save lives, provide needed treatment for untreated conditions beyond Covid, and to find post-quarantine housing placement for patients.

The lessons learned have not been lost and are being integrated into new initiatives. The focus of this conversation will be to articulate best practices, explore how they are stimulating new initiatives and to imagine how medical Triage sites, building on the Quarantine and Isolation Site model can be realized throughout the county.

The Cast

Welcome to the COVID Hotel, is performed by Stephanie Bell, Henriëtte Brouwers, Iron Donato, Tom Grode, Keith Johnson, Jaiye Kamson, John Malpede, Lee Maupin, Lorraine Morland and ToneTone Taylor.

Project Funders / Credits

Welcome to the Covid Hotel project activities are made possible with support from City of Los Angeles, Department of Cultural Affairs; John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation; National Endowment for the Arts; National Endowment for the Humanities; Institute of Museum and Library Services; and California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Los Angeles Poverty Department programs are supported by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, California Arts Council; California Humanities, The Kindle Project; Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture; and Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts. LA Poverty Department is a member of Los Angeles Visual Arts Coalition (LAVA) and Skid Row Arts Alliance.

Welcome to the Covid Hotel is curated by Malpede and Henriëtte Brouwers, LAPD Associate Director, with support from Dr. Sudarsky; and design collaboration from Peter Gould, Alan Tollefson, and Young Mi Chi.  Thanks to the Institute of Contemporary Art ICA-LA and Amwest Ambulance. Photos courtesy of Dr. Sudarsky.