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Trump’s Advisors Are Getting Nostalgic for the Homelessness Crackdowns of Yore

They think more police presence might just solve the problem.

by Emma Ockerman
Sep 17 2019, 7:34pm

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President Donald Trump has repeatedly decried the West Coast’s inability to solve homelessness. Now, some members of his administration are now floating at least one way to get people off the streets: supporting police crackdowns.

In a new White House report published Monday, Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers suggested that “policing may be an important tool to help move people off the street and into shelter or housing where they can get the services they need.” The report also cited research from the 80s, which wrote of a time before a boom in unsheltered homelessness when “police patrols would have bundled [the homeless] off to jail."

The suggestions were published a day before Trump would travel to Palo Alto, California, for a campaign fundraising event on Tuesday. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson will also be in nearby San Francisco to discuss the progressive enclave’s long-standing problems with homelessness and housing affordability.

While Trump has no public events scheduled for Tuesday, it’s anticipated he and Carson will make an appearance together, according to CNN. And the council’s report could serve as a talking point. Speaking to reporters during his flight to the West Coast, Trump said he planned to do something the homeless people sleeping on “our best highways, our best streets, our best entrances to buildings.”

Just last week, a delegation from the Trump administration visited Los Angeles’ Skid Row to better understand the region’s homelessness crisis and meet with local police unions to discuss what they could legally do, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The council’s report Monday also said the current homeless count may be underestimated, primarily in places like California, New York City, Boston, and Washington, D.C. In placing blame, the report also argued there’s too much “tolerability” for homeless people to sleep on the streets due to warm weather, less policing, and shelters — like those in New York — offering privacy or independent rooms.

But warm weather or not, police have repeatedly descended upon tent encampments to perform “sweeps” across California that destroy tents and force homeless people to relocate to other neighborhoods. In July, seven homeless people sued Los Angeles to demand the city stop trashing their belongings in an attempt to get them to leave.

Police in cities along the West Coast, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, would also sometimes ticket homeless people or arrest them for simply sleeping on the streets or in their cars — before a federal court ruled that practice unconstitutional in September.

READ: Homelessness is getting so bad that cities are now building their own camps

The council’s report didn’t elaborate on how police may help dissolve homelessness but assured that arresting “homeless people simply because they are homeless are inhumane and wrong.”

Apart from suggesting police handle homelessness, the report also said the overregulation of housing markets has driven up construction costs and dissuaded investors from developing affordable housing, which has spurred people into poverty in cities like San Francisco.

Burdensome regulation has contributed to less affordable housing, but often at the local zoning level. It’s unclear what the Trump administration hopes to deregulate on the federal level.

Affordable housing advocates and advocates for the homeless have repeatedly called for further government investment to curb homelessness crisis, but Trump has also attempted to cut the nation’s public housing budget.

The report also fails to mention homelessness increased in the ‘80s during significant Reagan-era budget cuts to affordable housing programs, and it’s unclear whether Trump would come to the table on a proposal that increases the government’s budget.

Cover image: In this March 1, 2016 file photo, San Francisco police officers wait while homeless people collect their belongings in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)