Several Los Angeles City Council members want LA to explore housing the homeless at the Los Angeles Convention Center as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, according to an LA Times story. Like most large venues, the convention space has been sitting largely unused the past eight months and, with coronavirus cases rising, there seems little chance for big events to be held in the coming months.
U.S. District Judge David O. Carter wants the council to step up. Carter is overseeing a lawsuit alleging that the city and county have not done enough for the homeless.
Councilman Curren Price, who introduced the motion, told the Times that the homeless population faces increasing challenges due to the pandemic and that elected officials bear increased responsibility. “We’re in a panic situation along with a pandemic situation. Folks on the streets are just suffering,” he said.
According to the Times, Price’s 9th District, which includes the convention center, has more than 4,800 homeless people in 2020, with 2,700 on the streets. The rate of those sheltered in that district is well above the city’s average.
What about the financial implications? Doane Liu, executive director of the city’s Department of Convention and Tourism Development underscored the effect on the city’s economic recovery. “Specifically, our convention center does not have enough bathrooms, does not have any showers,” Liu told the Times. “When the building is empty, electricity and utilities are not on. Those are costs that are going to need to be borne by somebody.”
In the story, Mayor Eric Garcetti said it was an idea worth examining but that hotel rooms and motel rooms were a more efficient way to get people off the streets. “I think it merits studying,” he said. “I’d like that report to be turned around quickly.”