THE ANGELS –
The Mayfair Hotel in the Westlake neighborhood of Los Angeles has become an integral part of Hollywood. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the US in 2020, the Los Angeles Mayor’s office struck a deal with the owner to allow homeless people to stay in many of the hotel’s rooms during the lockdown.
Herman Gomez lives across from the famous hotel and said the presence of homeless people is changing the neighborhood. “Fights, stabbings, shootings, gang activities, drugs… Most drugs often happen there,” he explained.
In August, the Los Angeles City Council passed Mayor Karen Bass’s plan to acquire Mayfair and convert it to temporary housing, a project that would cost the city about $83 million.
Again, local residents like Paul Moss didn’t like the idea. “We were here during the last program; it was a necessary agreement, but the destruction it caused to the surrounding environment was concerning. This changed our whole lives!,” he explained.
But not everyone underestimated the plan, including Harris Lasky. “The fact that there will be a place where elderly people don’t have to roam the streets, I think it’s a good idea,” he commented.
According to a report by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, in one night in 2022, approximately 170,000 people in California became homeless due to the pandemic and its various impacts. This number constituted 30 percent of the homeless population in the US at that time.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the city has managed to house about 10,000 people in 37 hotels across Los Angeles, according to the city’s Homeless Services Authority.
FILE – Homeless tents line the streets of Los Angeles’ Skid Row neighborhood, July 22, 2022. (AP/Damian Dovarganes)
One of them is The LA Grand Hotel Downtown. The homeless people who moved into the hotel during the pandemic are still here. And some hotel workers, who usually serve tourists, still work there, including Maribel Fajardo. “We’ve been doing this for three years, and there’s been a lot of change, from regular guests to current clients, to the homeless. “The level of cleanliness is very different,” he said.
Unite Here Local 11 is a union representing more than 32,000 hospitality workers working in Southern California and Arizona. Its members support a Los Angeles city initiative that allows homeless people to stay in empty hotel rooms around Los Angeles and pay through government vouchers. Maria Hernandez, a spokesperson for the union said, “These will be vouchers for people who need them – women, victims of domestic violence, and people who need a place to stay.”
Due to the complexity of this issue and the pros and cons, the Los Angeles City Council plans to make a decision based on the results of the March 2024 election, where the plan to house homeless people in hotels is one of the items at stake. (ab/uh)