Trump pushing for crackdown on homelessness as aides visit California
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is pushing aides to find ways to curtail the growing number of homeless people living on the streets of Los Angeles, part of broader discussions his aides have held for weeks about urban problems in liberal locales, according to his personal lawyer and administration officials.
A team of administration officials is in California on what was described as a “fact-finding” mission as they weigh proposals to address the burgeoning crisis. But it is not clear what steps the administration could legally take on an issue that traditionally handled at the local level.
“Like many Americans, the president has taken notice of the homelessness crisis, particularly in cities and states where the liberal policies of overregulation, excessive taxation and poor public service delivery are combining to dramatically increase poverty and public health risks,” said Judd Deere, a White House spokesman. He said that the president signed an executive order to ease affordable housing development in June, and that he had “directed his team to go further and develop a range of policy options for consideration to deal with this tragedy.”
The aides’ visit to California was first reported by the Washington Post. The intensified discussions took place as the president, who has frequently criticized how urban areas in Democratic states are managed, prepares for a swing through the state next week.
California has the largest homeless population in the country, according to a 2018 report compiled by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, at an estimated 130,000 people.
And the nature of homelessness in California is markedly different than in other parts of the country; the state also has the highest percentage of homeless who are unsheltered, with nearly 70% of the homeless — or about 90,000 people — living on the street. That report estimated that nearly half of all people without shelter in the United States were in California in 2018. New York state had the second largest homeless population, nearly 92,000, according to the report. But fewer than 5% lacked shelter.
Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer and former mayor of New York, who was known for his aggressive crackdowns on street-bound homelessness, said he had been discussing the issue with administration officials.
“I think they feel that there’s got to be something that creates an incentive, carrot and stick, for cities to do something about it,” Giuliani said, adding that the discussions had been going on for two months.
Word of the efforts by the administration, which has repeatedly sought to cut housing assistance in its budget requests, alarmed advocates for the homeless and angered city leaders across California.
“Simply cracking down on homelessness without providing the housing that people need is not a real solution and will likely only make the situation worse,” said Mayor London Breed of San Francisco, whose city has been an object of the president’s scorn.
“The solution to homelessness is affordable homes — not further criminalization, punishing poor people for their poverty, sweeping people experiencing homelessness into increasingly unsafe areas or warehousing people in untenable and unsustainable conditions, all of which are proposals that the White House is seriously considering,” the National Low Income Housing Coalition said in a statement.
An estimated 59,000 homeless people live in Los Angeles County, according to a count conducted this year by the county, about a 12% increase over 2018. Of those, an estimated 44,000, or 75%, were unsheltered. Within the city of Los Angeles, which is distinct from the county, there were 36,000 homeless, including 27,000 who were unsheltered, according to that same count.