According to CNN, there are more than 60,000 homeless people on an average night in Los Angeles county, and 20,000 vacant hotel rooms.
A local hospitality union called Unite Here Local 11 proposed the idea, which made it onto the ballot after gathering enough signatures.
“It’s insane. It isn’t going to solve the problem,” says Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry & Commerce Association, which represents hotels and other businesses across the north of the city.
Waldman fears that housing homeless people in hotels will keep people from visiting the city.
“I wouldn’t want my kids around people that I’m not sure about. I wouldn’t want to be in an elevator with somebody who’s clearly having a mental break,” he says. “The idea that you can intermingle homeless folks with paying, normal guests just doesn’t work out.”
The union’s co-president, Kurt Petersen, made a statement making it clear that the union does not believe that this move will solve the homelessness crisis, but “hotels have a role to play.”
If L.A. residents vote yes on the matter, all hotels—anything from a suburban motel to a historic residence—will be required to report vacancies and welcome homeless guests.
The homeless who are invited would have vouchers from the city, which would cover the market-rate for the rooms.
This measure is an attempt to address the city’s mounting homelessness and housing problems.
More than half of L.A. voters say that managing the homelessness crisis is their No. 1 concern.
The city’s homelessness agency has an annual budget of over $800 million, which is supposed to cover counseling services, shelters, permanent housing and other resources for locals who fall on hard times to put to use.
The problem continues to grow, however, with the homeless population climbing and increasing numbers of encampments along city streets and in parks.
Proprietors of these businesses are concerned for their hotels, as well as the safety of their guests.
Manoj Patel, manager of a Motel 6, told CNN he faced a $4,000 repair bill after a guest destroyed her room, even setting fire to the curtains.
“The bathroom was completely damaged,” said Patel. “I guess she threw something, took the 43-inch HD TV out. And then she felt voices or demons were coming out of the room or something. She marked all walls. The curtains, she burned. Thank God there was no fire.”
Shawn Bigdeli found himself living on the streets after losing his job, but was offered a room at the L.A. Grand Hotel through the city’s RoomKey program.
He does not agree with the mandatory rooming program, commenting on the mental illness within the homeless community.“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” he said. “You know, there’s a lot of people with untreated mental health and some people do some damage to these poor buildings.”