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Los Angeles business leaders have called on the city to obtain 15,000 hotel rooms to take homeless people off the streets.
The call has been taken up by online activists, too, causing #SeizeTheHotels to trend on Twitter.
More than 40,000 people are homeless in Los Angeles and the death rate among the group is up 74 per cent in 2021, according to activists. In January this year, they died at a rate of five a day.
People are dying. 165 unhoused people died in LA County in January, averaging over five people a day. This is a public health emergency. @CD6Nury house people now with free FEMA money! #SeizeTheHotels https://t.co/GrUD83nx1b
— Melissa Acedera (@mellemusic) February 20, 2021
People are asking “FEMA is only reimbursing, where would Los Angeles get the money to seize the hotels right now?”
And we present to you a $3 billion budget item: LAPD #DefundThePolice #SeizeTheHotels pic.twitter.com/ke53oQRpHq
— People's City Council - Los Angeles (@PplsCityCouncil) February 20, 2021
The LABC, which represents 500 city businesses and civic leaders, says the city’s 100,000 hotel and motel rooms are only at 50 per cent of capacity because of the pandemic.
”Opportunities like this don’t come along often. We must take full advantage of it,” the LABC said in a letter to Mr Garcetti.
“Thus, we urge you to act fast to explore options for renting vastly more hotel and motel rooms and bringing our unhoused Angelenos safely indoors.”
The city’s Project Roomkey started in march 2020 as coronavirus spread, but the city only leases three hotels with around 1,200 rooms.
And Mr Garcetti has authorised funding to extend the leases until September 30.
It was aimed at providing short-term shelter for homeless residents over the age of 65 or with serious health issues.
The city is also under pressure from federal judge David Carter to provide housing for 6,500 living under Los Angeles freeways by April 1.
“And if we can’t hit the 15,000-room goal, let’s know that our mayor and other city leaders did everything in their power to reach it,’’ said LABC president Mary Leslie.
“Five years from now, we can either look back and say we missed a golden opportunity, or be grateful that Los Angeles answered the magnitude of the moment and housed a majority of its homeless population.’”