Cities across the U.S. are searching for ways to deal with a current surge in homelessness. A new plan in Los Angeles would force hotels to open up their vacant rooms to shelter the homeless.
Under the ordinance, hotels would be required to notify the city every day by 2 p.m. just how many vacant rooms they have left for the night, KABC-TV reported. Vouchers would then be given to the homeless to stay in those rooms — alongside hotel guests. Hotels would receive “fair market rate” from the city for every voucher used.
The L.A. City Council voted unanimously Friday to send the issue to voters rather than impose it themselves. Now the issue will be on the 2024 ballot, the L.A. Times said.
The plan’s opponents say it’s an irresponsible way to have to do business. Hotel and tourism owners and organizations are pushing back, saying the ordinance had the potential to put the safety of hotel guests and workers at serious risk. Mina Dahya, a hotel owner in Hollywood, told KTLA-TV she is not comfortable putting homeless folks with paying guests.
“I am compassionate of the homeless people. I want to take care of them. But I don’t think my staff and I are ready to do the combination where I have a paid guest staying with a homeless voucher guest next door,” Dahya said.
Hotel manager Juan Martinez told the outlet, “This is a bad idea. People are not going to feel safe. My staff is not going to feel safe, so I think this is wrong.”
Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino sides with the tourism leaders, saying hotel workers will wind up becoming “social workers” for the homeless while watching the industry take a major hit.
“What the measure does is hurts our tourism industry, which we heavily rely on, in a time when we are getting ready for the … Olympics,” Buscaino told KTLA.
He called the idea “the dumbest measure I’ve seen in my 10 year tenure as a City Council member” and said it would be “the worst of all options as it relates to solving homelessness in the city of L.A.”
Proponents of the plan, led by Unite Here Local 11, said hotel operators are prejudiced against the homeless.
Union organizer Carly Kirchen told the City Council during public comment, “The hotel operators would have you believe that every person experiencing homelessness is so sick that they are a danger to the people around them.”
According to Kirchen, hotel workers have been some of the most affected Angelenos during the latest housing crisis.
Shelters across the U.S. are reporting a surge in people looking for help, the Washington Post reported, and inflation has made it all worse. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently announced $2.8 billion in funding for homeless services. According to HUD, more than 326,000 people experienced homelessness in 2021.