Last Updated on August 26, 2022
Los Angeles is considering whether to house its homeless population in an effort to combat the city’s massive homelessness problem. Proponents of the policy argue that the city has around 20,000 vacant hotel rooms on an average night, which could be used to house a portion of the city’s 60,000 homeless individuals. Voters will soon decide whether to enact the new policy at the ballot box.
Unite Here Local 11, led by Kurt Peterson, represents hotel workers in L.A. The union has gathered signatures, and now L.A. County residents will vote on a bill in 2024 that would force every hotel to report vacancies at 2 p.m. every day, Fox 8 reported. The hotels would then welcome homeless individuals into vacant rooms.
“We think this is one part of the solution,” Peterson said. “By no means do we think this solves the homelessness crisis. But do hotels have a role to play? Of course they do.”
It is unclear what services would be provided to qualified homeless individuals. It is also unclear how the policy will be funded. Additionally, the policy will apply to all Los Angeles hotels, including high-end locations with pricy rates.
The proposal would also force developers to replace demolished housing to make way for new hotels, and hotel permits would be introduced.
Peterson said the proposal was inspired by a pandemic-era program that housed 10,000 individuals in hotels if they volunteered. “It’s up to the city. I mean, they did it during Project Room Key,” Peterson said.
Shawn Bigdeli was a recipient of the program. “Well, first of all, it’s a blessing,” he told Fox 8. “It’s a great room. The technology is not up to par, but, you know, what technologies do you have in the tent?”
Bigdeli is not sold on the proposal, however, arguing that there are safety issues that could arise. “Maybe for some, but, you know, there’s a lot of people with untreated mental health, and some people do some damage to these poor buildings, man,” he said.
Manoj Patel, a hotel manager in Los Angeles, also has issues with the bill. Patel manager actually runs a program where he voluntarily rents hotel rooms to vetted homeless individuals, but he believes the proposed policy is flawed and unrealistic.
“Honestly, would you check into a hotel knowing that the chance of your neighbor to the left or right is a homeless individual?” Patel told Fox 8. He also stressed that hotels have been strained from COVID lockdowns and operate on thin margins. “We barely are surviving, number one. Number two, we have to think of the safety of our staff. And number three, we’re not professionally or any otherwise equipped with any of the supporting mechanisms that the homeless guest would require,” he said.
Patel said that one of his rooms was damaged by a homeless person at one point. “She marked all walls, the curtain she burnt, thank God there was no fire. Even marked the ceiling,” he said.
Opponents of the bill worry that it will have a negative effect on the city’s tourism industry. “I wouldn’t want my kids around people that I’m not sure about,” said Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry & Commerce Association. “I wouldn’t want to be in an elevator with somebody who’s clearly having a mental break. The idea that you can intermingle homeless folks with paying normal guests just doesn’t work out.”
Peterson argues that opponents of the bill are using fear tactics to make citizens afraid of the homeless population. “There’s a certain class of people less than humans, animals, they’re almost described as, to be honest with you,” he said. “They don’t seem to understand who the unhoused are. We’re talking about seniors, students, working people. That’s who the voucher program would benefit the most.”
Los Angeles voters will decide on the hotel policy in 2024.