President Donald Trump took aim at “liberal” Los Angeles and California political leaders as he weighed in on the homelessness issue, hinting he may “intercede” to “get that whole thing cleaned up,”
“It’s very sad. Very sad. It’s a phenomenon that started two years ago. It’s disgraceful,” Trump said in an interview on Fox News that aired Monday night. “… I’m looking at it very seriously. We’re doing some other things, as you probably know … but we’re looking at it very seriously.”
Trump said many U.S. cities are doing well, but others run by his political opponents who have adopted sanctuary policies are not.
“They’re usually sanctuary cities run by very liberal people and the states (that) 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,” Trump said. “It’s destroying their city and it’s destroying the whole way of life. And it’s not our country. It’s not what our country’s all about.”
During an appearance Tuesday on KNX Newsradio, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said he was actually encouraged by the president’s attention to the issue.
“Any day the president is talking about homelessness is a good day,” Garcetti said. “The only thing I would correct him on … is that he said this started two years ago. … It’s been something that’s been decades in the making, and I welcome federal help. To me this is going to require all hands. I think people are so sick of the political games. So if he (Trump) wants to roll up our sleeves and meet us, I’m ready.”
Federal assistance has helped Los Angeles in the past, Garcetti said, adding that many of the city’s veterans living on the streets were housed through federal programs.
When asked if he was inviting the president to walk the streets of Los Angeles, Garcetti said, “Absolutely. I would be more than happy to do that.”
Garcetti accepted responsibility for Los Angeles’ response to the homeless situation in June when the latest numbers from the county were released. Los Angeles County was reported to have more than 59,000 homeless people, an uptick of 12% from last year, while the city has more than 36,000, a 16% increase from last year.
But the mayor also criticized the Trump administration’s cutting of funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which he said could be a reduction of tens of billions of dollars for affordable housing.
Trump hinted he may somehow intervene in homeless crisis, although he did not give any specifics.
“We’re looking at it very seriously,” Trump said. “We may intercede. We may do something to get that whole thing cleaned up. It’s inappropriate. We have to take the people and do something. We have to do something. And you know, we’re not really 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. We’ve never had this in our lives before in our country, and it’s not only those few cities, it’s a couple of others.”
Los Angeles is in the midst of an ambitious $1.2 billion effort to fund homeless housing programs. More than $460 million was recently dedicated to homeless encampment and sidewalk clean-ups.
“You can’t have what’s happening, where police officers are getting sick just by walking the beat, they’re getting actually very sick, where people are getting sick,” Trump said.
He was referring to incidents in which a Los Angeles city employee said she contracted typhus at work, and in May an LAPD employee developed symptoms related to typhoid fever while working at the Central Station near Skid Row. Two other employees at the station developed symptoms consistent with the salmonella typhoid bacteria.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors called on the county Public Health Department in March to develop a communicable-disease prevention and intervention plan in response to the LAPD employee’s illness. The Los Angeles City Council last week allocated more than $6 million for its CARE and CARE-plus teams for clean-ups and homeless outreach services.
Trump claimed during the Fox interview that homelessness was becoming a problem in Washington, D.C., when he took office, but he “ended it very quickly.”
“When you have leaders of the world coming in to see the president of the United States and they’re riding down a highway, they can’t be looking at that,” Trump said. “I really believe that it hurts our country, they can’t be looking at scenes like you see in Los Angeles and San Francisco.”
Garcetti said Democratic presidential hopefuls have started developing plans to address homelessness, and it could be difficult for the president to maintain votes in 2020 if he doesn’t develop his own comprehensive strategy.
“My message to the president is that he better step up with a plan on homelessness as well, or else he’s going to get his butt kicked out there,” Garcetti said.
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