LA hotel staff react to proposal to open empty rooms to homeless people

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

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

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

At a city council meeting Friday, hoteliers and industry players voiced opinions for and against the proposal, with several noting that staff members are not properly trained to provide the mental and social services needed to adequately address the needs. of unprotected persons.

Thomas Franklin, a night controller at the Beverly Hills Marriott in West Los Angeles, said he himself was homeless ten years ago and described a “chaotic” experience living in a transitional housing program that had 24-hour security and staff on call.

“With all the drugs, all the fighting … we didn’t have the support to do a successful program there,” he told council members Friday. “Without having a clearly defined support from the police and mental services, there’s no way I think that’s something we could do.”

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

“There has to be a more humane way to deal with this problem,” he continued. “My staff is here with me today … this is no joke to them. If this goes through, they will look for other opportunities.”

Dixie Moore (R) talks with representatives of St Joseph Center Homeless Services who will help her move from the tent encampment along the Venice Beach Boardwalk to short-term housing at a nearby hotel on July 2, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.

Dixie Moore (right) talks with St Joseph Center Homeless Services representatives who will help her move from the tent encampment along the Venice Beach Boardwalk to short-term housing at a nearby hotel on July 2, 2021.

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

Carly Kirchen, a labor union organizer supporting the ordinance, said hotel owners are perpetuating the “myth” that “every person experiencing homelessness is so sick that they are a danger to the people around them,” adding that thousands of her members Local 11 are currently facing eviction.

“Even as a union member with a well-paying job, I recently became homeless because of the housing crisis in our city,” said Bambian Taft, a hotel minibar employee and former housekeeper.

Other speakers noted the proposed ordinance’s lack of financial data and funding information. Richard Earle, an executive at hotel insurer Petra RiskSolutions, said the proposal would force carriers to “legally pull cover”.

“It won’t be available because it changes the whole scope of the business,” he said, adding that coverage for hotels adhering to the initiative would be four to five times more expensive than their current rates. “It will be an immediate devastating punitive impact on their business.”

The ordinance would also require hotels that demolish residences to build new facilities to replace the damaged units with affordable housing. Ronald Bermudez, who said he works as a bellman at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel, voiced his support for the initiative at Friday’s meeting.

“I’m a renter near downtown,” he told council members. “It’s going to be so hard to live in Los Angeles because of the high cost of rent. We need to do everything we can to protect housing in our city.”

Are you a hotel worker struggling to afford housing? Contact this reporter from a non-work address at [email protected]

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