As the number of homeless people in Los Angeles County grows — 12 percent in the last two years — some businesses are feeling the consequences. That’s true in Hollywood, where tourists come expecting to see a celebrity but are more likely to find a panhandler.
The situation isn’t new.
Red Line Tours offers historical walking tours of the old movie palaces lining Hollywood Boulevard. As the tour guide explains, actors in the 1920’s had a bad reputation.
“It was so bad that landlords would not rent to them. These actors would show up to apartment buildings looking for housing, and all they found were signs in windows that read, ‘NO DOGS, NO ACTORS ALLOWED.’ It was such a problem for the studios that many of them had to build housing facilities of their own because many of their actors were homeless on the street.”
Today, homelessness in Hollywood is still a problem.
“In the last couple of years, I’ve seen a pretty dramatic increase in homelessness on the street,” says Tony Hoover, who owns Red Line Tours. He says Hollywood has gotten a bad reputation, partly due to aggressive panhandlers. And it has hurt his business.
“Our walk-in business — the people just coming here, that we would get randomly — that’s probably dropped off a huge percentage, probably close to 50 percent,” he says.
Businesses have hired a former police officer, Courtney Kanagi, to help deal with the people camped out on Hollywood Boulevard.
“People want to see the walk of stars,” she says. “They don’t want to be stepping over people who are panhandling, asking for money, sleeping on the sidewalk. People may not want to go inside their business to buy products if they are being hassled on the way in.”
Standing beside his homeless buddy, a 24-year-old who goes by the street name Solo says he understands the tension between the homeless and wealthy business owners.
“They’re walking around with a $40,000 Rolex, you know, for an accessory,” he says. “That amount of money would change both of our lives.”
For many tourists, the sight of panhandlers and the mentally ill sitting on the sidewalk is not what they expected.
“I didn’t know so many people could live in the streets like this. I was shocked,” one tourist from Israel says.
A man from India also noticed the homeless. “There’s, like, quite a few over there. It doesn’t look good.”
But a family from Memphis says that the situation didn’t hurt their experience. Instead, they say it inspires them to spend more time volunteering at a homeless shelter when they get home.
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