A homeless man sits with his belongings on the Fourth of July
Photo by Jason Ryan (jasonryanphotography.com)

Just before Independence Day weekend, President Donald Trump went on Fox News to castigate Los Angeles, San Francisco and other “sanctuary cities run by very liberal people” for allowing homelessness to get out of hand, hinting that the White House is considering some sort of federal intervention to restore safety and order to encampment-filled streets.

“It’s very sad. Very sad. It’s a phenomenon that started two years ago. It’s disgraceful,” Trump told Tucker Carlson. “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. … We’re looking at it very seriously. We may intercede. We may do something to get that whole thing cleaned up. It’s inappropriate.”

It’s doubtful that Trump actually plans to take action on homelessness in California, which has been a serious human rights issue for a lot longer than two years. But it would be naïve to dismiss his comments as merely a political cheap shot. Trump recognizes that rampant homelessness has become the great failure of the so-called “liberal establishment” governing West Coast cities. Compassionate ideologies ring hollow when words are not followed by effective action, leaving tens of thousands to languish hopelessly in streets that no longer feel safe for many people.

Democratic Party leadership lost the White House in 2016 because they could not win the trust of people who felt the economy had left them behind. In similar fashion, the joint crises of housing affordability and homelessness have eroded support for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and his allies, who regardless of intent have allowed the streets of Los Angeles to devolve into a talking point for Trump.

If The White House does intend to address homeless, we’d point the president’s attention to proposed legislation by local members of Congress. Rep. Ted Liu, along with Sen. Dianne Feinstein and a pair of Republican colleagues, recently introduced the “Fighting Homelessness through Services and Housing Act,” which would fund up to $3.75 billion in federal grants to cities for supportive housing, mental health services and job training. Rep. Maxine Waters’ “Ending Homelessness Act” would infuse as much as $13 billion into housing and services.

Trump, Feinstein, Lieu and Waters … now that’s a White House photo op that would blow people’s minds.

What Community Leaders Tell Us:

Holly Tilson, Mar Vista Community Council member: “Maybe it is time for the federal government to step in and help. After all, the federal government has stepped away from funding affordable and workforce housing, which has been a significant cause of the current national crisis.”

Denny Schneider, Westchester community advocate: “Federal intervention via funding our local and state elected officials would be insane. L.A. is already spending hundreds of millions of dollars from recently passed propositions that, instead of fixing anything, is squandering resources.”

Gary Aminoff, L.A. County Republican Party organizer, Playa del Rey: “It depends on what the intervention is. Homelessness is not a housing problem — it’s a mental illness and drug addiction problem. The solution is to rehabilitate people and, for those who need housing, to make housing easier to build with less red tape.”

Alisa Orduña, Santa Monica senior advisor on homelessness: “Create federal policy banning discrimination against Section 8 subsidies as a source of income used in qualifying for rental units. Do not evict non-citizen occupants of public housing. Do not discriminate against transgender persons. Count and share national data on the number of people at risk of homelessness, and incentivize annual housing production goals to meet this need.”

Alix Gucovsky, Venice activist recently elected to the Venice Neighborhood Council: “Once again Mr. Trump has done what he does best, taking a complicated situation about which he knows nothing and putting out false information in tiny soundbites. There are key decisions that impacted California specifically, some dating back 50 years, and have led to the current crisis. We did not arrive at 130,000 plus homeless [in California] in two years. This situation evolved over time due to unintended consequences of state and federal legislation, and various lawsuits.

Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin: “The best thing Donald Trump could do to help us with homelessness is resign. His administration is gutting health care, shredding the social safety net, abandoning our veterans, driving working people into poverty, and cutting support for public housing. His administration is currently threatening to throw 11,000 people in Los Angeles alone out onto the streets. Homelessness is a crisis that his administration is helping to create, and cities like Los Angeles are stepping up to solve it.”

Rep. Ted Lieu: “It’s hard to take Trump’s statement seriously, since his animus toward California is well documented. Given his track record on just about every issue, I doubt the president’s approach would be compassionate or strategic. But, if he’s serious about helping to break the cycle of homelessness, I’d work with him and welcome his help whipping support for Sen. Feinstein, Sen. Murkowski, Rep. Stivers and my bipartisan “Fighting Homelessness through Services and Housing Act.” Our bill supports holistic efforts to address homelessness by providing grants to local governments around the country. It’s a great bill, and I hope the president will support it.”