ART BY SHIRLEEN KWONG
President Trump is, quite simply, brushing the homeless issue in California under the rug.
According to Census data, about one-fourth of all homeless people in the U.S. live in California. The message is clear: a dichotomy has been manufactured in which luxury apartments and cafes loom over blocks of makeshift homes and syringes.
Essentially, California homelessness is such a precarious situation that Trump’s involvement would only aid in exacerbating the issue. In fact, it may very well lead to a host of new challenges.
Although experts point to California’s high housing costs as the main culprit, the public’s response points to the homeless themselves. According to authorities and the Los Angeles Times, there were at least eight incidents in LA where people threw flammable liquids or makeshift explosives at homeless people or their tents this year. Ultimately, the violence created such a dire situation that Donald Trump was forced onto a plane to visit the sunshine state.
Although not wearing literal sunglasses, Trump took the time to throw shade at California policymakers for letting the problem get so bad. During his two days stay in California, Trump’s Council of Economic Advisors released a report detailing the “tolerability of sleeping on the streets” and “high housing prices” to be at blame for the rising numbers. Ironically, the words “affordable housing” only show up twice within the 41 pages. However, the problems cited are very real: despite California’s strict environmental policies and progressive reforms, it has the highest poverty rate in the nation. Specifically, Trump cited that “We have people living in our best highways, our best streets, our best entrances to buildings.” He ended his tirade with a warning that federal funding towards the crisis would be cut if the problem continued.
Nevertheless, it was only recently after issuing his censure that Trump suddenly jumped ship to support more federal funding. Was it the heartbreaking sight of the homeless that led him to have a change of heart? Of course not.
His administration had already delved into rocky territory when they threatened to withhold wildfire aid and dump detained migrants into sanctuary cities. In other words, liberal California democrats like Eric Garcetti simply detest Trump; yet, despite the diminishing Republican party in California, Trump continues to use his authority to threaten to cut state funding to coerce state legislators. Using this power, he hopes to shortchange California once more: even if his policies are not necessarily in the best interests of the homeless. However, the continuous conflict between the state and federal government leaves more to be desired.
Additionally, now that his administration is involved, they are bringing a characteristic cluelessness and cruelty with them.
In his own “crackdown” of the issue, Trump’s Department of Housing and Urban Development proposed allowing homeless shelters to discriminate and refuse shelter to transgender and other LGBTQ people, subjecting them to high risk of violence.
Unfortunately for us, this is not the first time Trump has claimed to “easily” fix an issue in the states. During his presidential campaign, Trump turned to attack Chicago stating that the murder statistics would go down if officers were “very much tougher than they are right now.”
Trump’s approach to Chicago is similar to his condemnation of California. In both accounts, he criticized the states for raising the national amount of murders or increasing the number of homeless. However, Trump was wrong in that Chicago’s statistics had been going down just as he is wrong to assume that forceful relocation of homeless people will solve the issue.
Clearly, Trump’s federal involvement is just a way for him to attack the policies of his political competitors and excite his fan base during the election year. This is echoed through Trump’s unexplained willingness to suddenly cut and then increase federal funding, a step that would only lead to more problems given California lawmaker’s refusal to cooperate with him.
In fact, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said in an interview with the New York Times:
“There’s nothing Trump would like to see more than a diminished voice in California.”
Nevertheless, the Trump administration are not alone in provoking California’s homeless epidemic; take, for example, California’s own public servants.
In a letter signed by state and city officials, Governor Gavin Newsom called on the Trump administration to provide 50,000 more vouchers to account for the higher rent.
However, before becoming governor, Newsom promised that he would install a cabinet-level homelessness czar to tame the issue. After one year in office, there is still no such official.
Moreover, Mayor Eric Garcetti responded last fall with a series of LAPD raids of homeless encampments that have continued for almost a year. On the other hand, in the Bay Area city officials have staged multiple raids on homeless camps in San Francisco and Oakland, disassembling wooden homes and arresting anyone who occupied them and had an outstanding warrant.
Lawmakers, Trump in particular, are employing an arguably inhumane approach to homelessness: truly the epitome of a society that is aiming to sweep homelessness under a rug. Trump’s involvement has bolstered nothing but political backlash but also serves as a dire spotlight on the lack of effective political action against the issue.
Eve Garrow, a policy analyst that focuses on housing and homelessness with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, spoke out against these rash policies in an interview with The Guardian.
“It’s a terrifying prospect of a world in which we segregate, incarcerate and restrict the civil liberties of people just because they have disabilities and they are too poor to afford a home in our skyrocketing private rental market.”
Garrow’s beliefs are reflected across a spectrum of people, all of which want to see homeless numbers go down.
However, perhaps the best solution is at a more local level. Specifically, employing city officials and organizations that know their unique situations and can work with the state to solve the issue. Either way, with an election year coming up and Trump gambling for the presidency, it is best not to get our hopes too high. Regardless of the politically fueled motives that plague California, homelessness is a rising issue and takes more than cruel raids and relocation to solve.