- President Trump addressed homelessness during a Monday interview with Tucker Carlson on Fox News, saying, "It's a phenomenon that started two years ago. It's disgraceful... We've never had this in our lives before, in our country."
- Trump suggested that the federal government might take action to mitigate homelessness in cities. "We're looking at it very seriously. We may intercede. We may do something to get that whole thing cleaned up," he said. But he then claimed, "We're really not very equipped as a government to be doing that kind of work, that's not really the kind of work that the government probably should be doing."
- Trump called out Los Angeles and San Francisco as prime examples of cities where homelessness is an issue. "[M]ost of our cities are doing great. But if you look at some of these, they're usually sanctuary cities run by very liberal people and the states are run by very liberal people. But the thing that nobody can figure out is, do these governors or mayors, do they really think this is a positive? Do they really think this is OK? Because it's not. It's destroying their city. And it's destroying a whole way of life. And it's not what our country is all about."
Trump's assertion that homelessness is a new problem contradicts many of the facts and figures about what cities have experienced over the past several years. One of the cities he targeted, Los Angeles, has struggled with homelessness for years, even declaring a state of emergency on the issue in 2015. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released a report in December noting that, although there was a slight uptick in homelessness from 2017 to 2018, overall homelessness is down 15% nationally from its peak in 2007.
The president was vague about what the federal government could do to intercede before noting the federal government might not be equipped to do that kind of work. The federal government already has a number of programs in place to assist with homelessness mitigation, most notably through HUD. That agency offers numerous grants related to lessening homelessness in states and cities; it has an online map showing how HUD programs are helping communities across the country.
The insinuation that liberal governors and mayors in areas experiencing heavy rates of homelessness are OK with the situation doesn't appear to be the reality. Looking at actions in the two places he referenced — Los Angeles and San Francisco — illustrates a scene where leaders are working to solve the problem.
In the fall, Los Angeles launched two homelessness mitigation programs after receiving $85 million from the state for program assistance. Mayor Eric Garcetti declared a shelter emergency and several ordinances to address the crisis. This year the city council adopted a measure to improve the process and funding structure to develop permanent housing for the homeless through the $1.2 billion Proposition HHH supportive housing bond.
In San Francisco, Mayor London Breed is continuing her predecessors' actions to mitigate homelessness and is taking the city's commitment to fix the problem to a new level. Last year she proposed using an unexpected property tax windfall to fund affordable housing and homelessness mitigation programs. Among Breed's actions was a pledge of $1 million over the next two fiscal years to fund shelter programs. She has also pledged to build 5,000 transit-accessible housing units each year to boost housing affordability.
And at the state level, Gov. Gavin Newsom is tackling homelessness and housing affordability head on. Last week he signed a budget with $1.75 billion allotted for affordable housing efforts. Cities out of compliance with the state's housing goals will face monthly fines.
Although the homelessness problem has been around for years, many point to the housing crisis as worsening the situation. But as noted in Atlanta's newly released affordable housing plan, the housing crunch and its effects grew out of a number of factors over the past several decades, and the complex problem will take time to solve.