Back in early April, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced Project Roomkey, an initiative to use local and federal funds to check homeless people into empty hotels amidst the coronavirus pandemic. But over a month later, homeless activists in Los Angeles, the state’s largest city, have grown impatient with the city’s slow progress.
According to the Los Angeles Times, advocates for the homeless have been pressuring officials to take over some of the hotels in the city, which has lagged behind its own goal of securing 15,000 rooms for about 25% of the area’s homeless population.
“If you can tell the entire city of Los Angeles that we can shelter in place, then you can tell the hotels they are commandeered and they need to open their doors to the residents of skid row,” said Shayla Myers, attorney for the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles.
During a recent incident, a homeless man entered the Ritz-Carlton during a Democratic Socialist of America protest and then refused to leave, reports NBC Los Angeles. He was later arrested and released.
The homeless man told the LA Times he planned on staying at the luxury hotel chain until government officials forced the city’s hotel industry to house the region’s entire homeless population. According to ABC-7, the units that occupy the top floor of the Ritz-Carlton are owned by individuals, and cost up to $42 million to purchase.
Los Angeles county, which leads the nation in homelessness everywhere except New York City, currently has about 60,000 homeless people, according to the Los Angeles County Homeless Authority’s 2019 count. The county has approximately 98,000 hotel rooms.
The Los Angeles Times reports that even local officials have balked at the idea of using an emergency order to seize the hotel industry, and might even delay the housing initiative by pressuring hotel owners into court battles.
“Commandeering is very seldom used by government,” David Howard, the county executive in charge of the team that negotiates with hotel owners, told the news agency. “It’s only done in the event of disaster.”
Even before the pandemic officially took hold in the United States, the governor had been advocating for stronger policies to help the state’s homeless population, and notably proposed a peculiar solution earlier this year.
“Doctors should be able to write prescriptions for housing the same way they do for insulin or antibiotics,” said Newsom during the state of the state address in February.
After Newsom decided to also tweet his remarks, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) slammed him for proposing solutions that require things to “magically appear.”
This is the Leftist mind: write a slip of paper & a house will magically appear. Never mind that the person doesn’t have a job, the contractor can’t get a CA permit to build the house, rent control has caused a housing shortage & homeless people are crapping on the doorstep. ? https://t.co/giz3z7vHFB
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) February 24, 2020
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