A Los Angeles hotel sustained $11.5 million in damages while the city used it as a federally sponsored homeless shelter.
The city included the Mayfair Hotel in Project Roomkey, a federal initiative to turn California hotels into temporary homeless shelters. At the end of the hotel's time in the program, the city quietly paid the hotel's owner to cover damages from residents. Social workers assigned to the hotel lamented its condition in emails obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
"Participant in 1516 Threatened staff, Security, destroyed property. Screamed. Yelled cursed. Everything went wrong with her. Inside and outside the building," one social worker wrote. Another recounted how "a male in 1526 assaulted another resident in Room 726."
The Mayfair represents the latest instance in which state and local governments have paid a huge price to address the homelessness crisis in California.
San Diego in April requested state funds to buy three hotels at $383,000 per room to house its homeless population. The city saw homelessness hit record highs in the months leading up to the purchase.
Between September 2021 and June 2022, the city of Berkeley alone removed 75 tons of garbage, drug paraphernalia, and human feces from homeless encampments. With an estimated 535 people living on the street at the time, the city removed roughly 500 pounds of waste per homeless person per year.
Experts have attributed the state's struggles with homelessness to the so-called Housing First principle, which became the state's law of the land for homelessness policy in 2016. The practice focuses almost exclusively on providing subsidized housing to the homeless without requiring them to undergo treatment for substance abuse or mental illness.
In July, President Joe Biden's Department of Housing and Urban Development announced its investment of $3 billion into Housing First programs across the country.