LA hotel staff respond to suggestion to open vacant rooms to homeless people

  • A recently proposed regulation in Los Angeles would require hotels to open vacant rooms to the homeless.
  • Hotel workers spoke both for and against the proposal at a city council meeting on Friday.
  • The ordinance will appear on Los Angeles voters’ ballots in 2024, the council ruled.

Hotel workers, some of whom have experienced homelessness themselves in recent years, on Friday shared their thoughts on a controversial regulation that would require Los Angeles hotels to rent vacant rooms to the homeless through a voucher program.

The proposed initiative, titled “Responsible Hotel Ordinance,” is backed by hospitality union Unite Here Local 11 and will appear on Los Angeles ballots in 2024, the Los Angeles Times first reported.

At a city council meeting on Friday, hotel workers and industry stakeholders voiced their opinions for and against the proposal, with several noting that staff are not adequately trained to provide the mental health and social services needed to adequately meet the needs of vulnerable individuals will.

Thomas Franklin, a night investigator at the Beverly Hills Marriott in West Los Angeles, said he was homeless himself ten years ago and described a “chaotic” experience at a transitional housing program where security guards and staff were on call around the clock.

“With all the drugs, all the fighting … we didn’t have the support to make it a successful program there,” he told council members Friday. “There is absolutely no way I think we should be able to do that without clearly defined support from the police and mental health services.”

An owner of the Hampton Inn Suites in Los Angeles echoed those concerns, saying his employees are “absolutely terrified and fear not only for their lives and safety, but for how we treat the homeless and vulnerable.”

“There must be a more humane way to solve this problem,” he continued. “My staff are here with me today…this is no joke to them. When that is over, they will look for other options.”

Dixie Moore (R) speaks with representatives from St. Joseph Center's homeless services, who will help her relocate from her tent camp along the Venice Beach Boardwalk to short-term accommodation at a nearby hotel on July 2, 2021 in Los Angeles, California .

Dixie Moore (right) speaks with representatives from St. Joseph Center’s homeless services, who will help her relocate from her tent camp on the Venice Beach Boardwalk to short-term accommodation at a nearby hotel on July 2, 2021.

Robyn Beck/AFP) (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

Carly Kirchen, an organizer for the workers’ union that supports the ordinance, said hotel owners perpetuate the “myth” that “any person who experiences homelessness is sick enough to pose a danger to those around them,” adding adding that thousands of Local 11 members are currently facing eviction.

“Even as a union member with a well-paying job, I’ve recently been homeless because of our city’s housing shortage,” said Bambian Taft, a hotel minibar attendant and former housekeeper.

Other speakers pointed to the lack of economic data and funding information in the proposed regulation. Richard Earle, an executive at hotel insurance provider Petra RiskSolutions, said the proposal would prompt airlines to “legitimately pull the cover”.

“It won’t be available because it’s changing the whole scope of the business,” he said, adding that coverage for hotels participating in the initiative would be four to five times more expensive than their current rates. “It will be a direct destructive punitive effect on their business.”

The ordinance would also require hotels that are demolishing apartments to construct new developments to replace the demolished units with affordable apartments. Ronald Bermudez, who said he works as a bellboy at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel, spoke in favor of the initiative at Friday’s meeting.

“I’m a renter near downtown,” he told council members. “Because of the high rental costs, staying in Los Angeles is becoming so difficult. We must do everything we can to protect housing in our city.”

Are you a hotel worker struggling to afford accommodation? Contact this reporter from a private address at [email protected]

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.