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Thousands of SRO hotel units in L.A. await conversion into housing for homeless people

Thousands of SRO hotel units in L.A. await conversion into housing for homeless people
A single-occupancy room at a hotel on skid row that was bought by the the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. (Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: The Times Editorial Board rightly chides Los Angeles city leaders for their anemic and bureaucratic approach to addressing the homelessness crisis with real-time housing solutions. However, you omit a practical, low-cost alternative: single-room occupancy, or SRO, hotels.

By some estimates, there are as many as 5,000 un- or under-occupied hotel rooms in SRO hotels in Los Angeles that could be re-purposed for such housing at a fraction of the cost of building permanent supportive housing. Since these buildings are already part of the city, they may face much less neighborhood or community opposition.

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The AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s Healthy Housing Foundation is aggressively pursuing this SRO model. Over the past year we have repurposed nearly 600 housing units and now provide housing in four buildings on skid row and in Hollywood.

As city officials and housing advocates wait for the first Measure HHH housing units to come online in 2020 or 2021, basic math tells us the more than 52,000 homeless in Greater Los Angeles simply cannot be accommodated through that effort and that any and all means of getting more people housed faster must be explored.

Ged Kenslea, Los Angeles

The writer is senior director of communications for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

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To the editor: Your prescription of more housing would be the correct one if the problem were solely the lack of affordable and supportive housing. However, walking the streets of Venice, it is clear the issue of homelessness is far more complicated and intractable.

Drug and alcohol dependency is both a cause and result of homelessness. Illness and domestic violence, often related to addiction, torment many on the streets. A criminal element of the homeless population exists and, in Venice, is operating stolen-bicycle chop shops in the open to gain money to buy drugs and alcohol.

Local service agencies are fighting a daily battle to bring care and hope to our homeless neighbors. However, many of those they interface with are nowhere near able to, or in some cases desire to, be housed.

Certainly, we need more housing for those who can be helped. However, we must redouble our efforts to deal with the underlying mental health, physical health and dependency issues that burden those on the streets and those of us who live near them.

Ian Spatz, Venice

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