LA City Council Votes to Publicly Name - and Perhaps 'Commandeer' - Hotels That Refuse to House Homeless During COVID-19 Outbreak

Brittany M. Hughes | May 7, 2020
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According to this, the Los Angeles City Council voted on Wednesday to publicly name hotels in the city that have refusing to take in homeless people during the coronavirus pandemic.

On top of that, the city council is also threatening to “commandeer” hotels to house the homeless at the point of a government gun. 

"Each hotel brings new hope, each room could save a life," Mayor Eric Garcetti said, according to KABC-TV.

Garcetti claims that if the city is offering to reimburse hotels for the cost of housing the homeless during the pandemic, any hotel that refuses is guilty of discrimination.  

“If hotels are making a distinction among people classifying housed and unhoused differently in terms of accommodations that they’re going to be repaid for, that the city and county will pay for with reimbursements, then I think there’s a potential civil rights violation,” Councilman Mike Bonin said. “If the problems are on the hotel end, the public should know why, and then we should consider commandeering as they’ve talked about in other cities.”

The city council’s official motion accuses some hotels of being "unwilling to participate, reneged on initial interest, citing security concerns, liability issues, objections from corporate management or fear of lost revenue from being branded a 'homeless hotel.'"

But some hotels, including the swanky Ritz Carlton, say that while the support the overall goal of the project, they can’t easily accommodate homeless guests, many of whom struggle with drug addictions, because their building also houses million-dollar condos that are owned by the residents. 

Art Avaness, owner of a local RE/MAX and the manager of several units in the Ritz, said it would be a lot to ask homeowners to have homeless people living in the same building.

“In theory, it’s a great idea, I support the program but in practice specifically for this property, it just isn’t, because you want to house hundreds of homeless people in a structure that’s literally in the same building with 224 homeowners?” he told FOX 11. “Having it in your own home basically is just a little too much, in fact, it’s offensive.”

Many cities across the country have struggled to deal with the homeless problem, which they'd been failing to control well before all this, amid the COVID-19 outbreak - a tricky situation, given the prevalence of mental illness, drug addition and health problems that plague the homeless population. In San Francisco, city officials are using private donations to supply some homeless people who've been set up in empty hotels with alcohol, medical marijuana, and narcotics to help curb addictions.

With a goal of 15,000, Los Angeles has only set up housing for about 1,500 homeless persons.