Why Welcoming the Homeless Might Be Hurting Hotels More Than Helping

West Hollywood Homelessness Wild Tents Camp

The Genesis of the Homeless Hotels Initiative

In recent times, the Unite Here Local 11 movement has championed the cause of mandating California hotels to offer vacant rooms to the homeless. Stemming from the pandemic-driven Project Roomkey, this initiative seeks to utilize hotel rooms as a temporary haven for the homeless. While the underlying intention is praiseworthy, it’s crucial to dissect the broader implications, both pros and cons, of such a strategy.

The Rationale Behind the Initiative

California’s escalating homeless crisis demanded immediate attention, further intensified by the pandemic. Hotels, with their surplus rooms, emerged as a plausible solution. Project Roomkey’s success in housing the homeless in these vacant spaces further solidified this approach.

Potential Challenges and Concerns

Safety and Well-being of All Stakeholders

A pressing concern against the “Homeless Hotels” initiative revolves around the safety and well-being of hotel guests, staff, and the homeless. Instances of hotel workers encountering illnesses, violent altercations, and property damage have surfaced. Such events not only endanger the staff’s safety but also cast doubts on the initiative’s feasibility.

Impact on Hotel Operations

Hotel interiorHotels cater primarily to travelers. Introducing a distinct demographic, especially one necessitating special care, can disrupt the hotel’s routine operations. Reports of unsanitary conditions, including human waste, needles, and shattered glass in hotel corridors, have emerged. Such scenarios can repel regular patrons and tarnish the hotel’s image.

Efficacy of the Initiative

The “Homeless Hotels” initiative’s effectiveness remains a topic of debate. Data indicates that numerous Roomkey participants faced eviction from hotels due to criminal activities and non-adherence to rules. Tragically, 49 Project Roomkey participants in Los Angeles lost their lives during the program.

Illicit Activities and Their Implications

Introducing the homeless demographic to hotels has inadvertently led to a surge in illicit activities. Drug use, theft, and other illegal actions have been reported, posing a significant risk to hotel guests and staff. Such activities further strain the relationship between hoteliers and the homeless, making the initiative’s success questionable.

The Financial Strain on Hotels

While the initiative aims to provide shelter, it inadvertently places a financial burden on hotels. Damages to property, increased security needs, and potential loss of regular clientele can lead to significant financial and reputation losses for hoteliers.

The Psychological Impact on Homeless Individuals

While hotels offer shelter, they might not provide the emotional and psychological support homeless individuals often require. The transient nature of hotel stays can exacerbate feelings of instability and uncertainty among the homeless.

A Balanced Perspective: Advocacy vs. Practicality

Local 11’s worker advocacy is commendable. However, endorsing a policy potentially endangering its members prompts a reevaluation of the balance between advocacy and realism. Ensuring that noble causes don’t compromise stakeholder safety is paramount.

The Way Forward

The “Homeless Hotels” initiative, noble in its intent, demands a holistic strategy. Addressing challenges and ensuring the policy’s holistic benefit is vital. A collaborative effort between hoteliers, policymakers, and social workers can chart a path for a more effective and lasting solution.



    1. What is the “Homeless Hotels” initiative?

      • It’s a policy urging California hotels to provide vacant rooms to the homeless.

      2. How did the initiative originate?

        • It was inspired by the pandemic-era Project Roomkey.

        3. What are the main concerns with the initiative?

          • Safety risks, operational disruptions, and the initiative’s overall efficacy are primary concerns.

          4. Has the initiative been successful so far?

            • While it has provided shelter to many, its overall success in terms of safety and long-term solutions is debatable.

            5. What can be done to improve the initiative?

              • Collaborative efforts between various stakeholders can lead to more sustainable solutions.