In the coming years, hotels might never be the same in Los Angeles, thanks to the city's plan to help the homeless.
Homelessness is a big problem in the United States. As of 2020, there is an estimated 580,466 individuals without access to permanent housing. The problem is most prevalent in the nation’s big cities, where the cost of living is highest. This is particularly evident in west coast cities. San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Portland all have homeless rates that are five times higher in comparison to other large cities in the nation. Los Angeles thinks it has come up with the perfect solution to tackle its homelessness epidemic. However, the maneuver could mean the end of hotels as a viable business in the city. This is because the city’s plan is to house its immense number of homeless inside LA’s hotels.
The plan to help the homeless by housing them in hotels on a nightly basis was put into motion by the union Unite Here Local 11. The activist union was able to collect enough signatures to support providing rooms for LA’s estimated 60,000 homeless every night. On any given evening, Los Angles hotels collectively have about 20,000 open rooms.
The union brought its proposal to the LA city council. The council almost unanimously rejected it. The rejection did not permanently stop the union’s efforts, though. It merely prevented such a thing from happening until voters in Los Angeles have the chance to decide whether or not they are in favor of such a program. The vote to determine whether Unite Here Local 11’s plan will come closer to getting implemented will take place on March 5, 2024.
Should this homeless hotel program actually come to pass, the Union has already outlined how it could theoretically work. The union is proposing that each and every afternoon hotels in LA must disclose how many vacancies they will have that evening. The city would then have to coordinate with the hotels to get the homeless individuals settled into their appropriate rooms. Hotels would face fines for failing to accurately report on their vacancies or filling those vacancies with ineligible individuals.
Additionally, the union’s proposal also calls for the city to address Los Angeles’ affordable housing crisis. Specifically, it is calling for a significant decrease in the number of hotels being built within the city limits. The proposal also calls for hotels to turn a select number of rooms into permanent residences.
It remains to be seen how LA residents will ultimately vote. That being said, it’s easy to see how an individual could be both for or against a program such as this. On the positive side, housing the homeless in LA hotels would keep them off the streets. This would mean both the streets and the homeless individuals would be safer.
On the flip side, many homeless individuals are in such a predicament due to addiction and/or mental illness. Housing these individuals in hotels means that paying hotel customers would potentially engage with them. That is something that could be very off-putting and uncomfortable. This is especially true for hotel guests traveling with young children that don’t want to subject their children to such circumstances.
Then, of course, it is also worth considering how this could negatively impact the hotels themselves. The hotels could lose significant amounts of money for providing free housing to the homeless. It’s likely that they would also lose paying customers not wanting to hand over money to sleep somewhere that homeless persons are being housed. If the hotels go under, then the homeless problem in LA will be right back where it started.