At least a dozen Trump administration officials are now in Los Angeles, meeting with Mayor Eric Garcetti's staffers to discuss the issue of homelessness in the city.
Led by Ben Hobbs, President Trump's special assistant for domestic policy, they toured the Skid Row area of downtown Los Angeles, which is home to thousands of homeless people, the Los Angeles Times reports. An estimated 59,000 homeless people live in Los Angeles County, up 12 percent from 2018, with more than 36,000 in L.A., an increase of 16 percent.
Trump has criticized cities in California with large homeless populations, and told Fox News earlier this year his administration is taking the issue "very seriously. We may intercede. We may do something to get that whole thing cleaned up. It's inappropriate."
Garcetti staffers said they welcome the dialogue, and have been saying more federal funding is needed to get a handle on things. A spokesman for Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), Nathan Click, said in a statement that if Trump is "willing to put serious solutions — with real investment — on the table, California stands ready to talk. He could start by ending his plans to cut food stamps, gut health care for low-income people, and scare immigrant families from accessing government services."
The Washington Postis also reporting that Trump administration officials have talked about the federal government stepping in to get homeless people in California off the streets and into new facilities backed by the government. It's unclear how, or if, this could legally work. One option being discussed is tearing down homeless encampments and renovating existing government buildings, two officials told the Post. Catherine Garcia
Despite an increase in spending on initiatives meant to get people off the streets, homelessness is up dramatically in Los Angeles and Los Angeles County, officials said Tuesday.
The annual count of the homeless found there are nearly 59,000 people living on the streets, in shelters, or in cars in Los Angeles County, up 12 percent from last year. More than 36,000 are in the city of Los Angeles, a 16 percent increase. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti called the number "heartbreaking," and said the city recently invested $42 million to provide services and respond to public health concerns, including rats and giant trash heaps piling up around homeless encampments in downtown L.A.
"At this point of unprecedented wealth in the county of Los Angeles, we are equally confronted with unprecedented poverty manifesting itself in the form of homelessness," Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas told the Los Angeles Times. He agreed with other officials that high rents and a lack of affordable housing is a major reason why more people are ending up on the streets.
"Overall, the service portion of the effort on mental health, substance use, the issue of housing, rent subsidies, those are important and we should stay the course," he said. "Where we have to work much harder is in the area of affordable housing." Last year, there was actually a small decrease in homelessness, he added, which is why "this year we are pretty well stunned by this data." Catherine Garcia
The city of Los Angeles plans to declare a "state of emergency" on homelessness and will dedicate $100 million to use toward housing and other services for the homeless.
The proposal was announced Tuesday by city leaders, one day after Mayor Eric Garcetti's office issued a proposal to use $13 million in anticipated excess tax revenue for short-term housing initiatives, the Los Angeles Times reports. An estimated 26,000 homeless people live in L.A., with a majority on the streets. "It's not a Skid Row problem," Councilman Gilbert Cedillo told the Times. "It's a problem that's proliferated throughout the city. If we want to be a great city that hosts the Olympics and shows itself off to the world, we shouldn't have 25,000 to 50,000 people sleeping on the streets."
A report released five months ago by City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, the city's top budget advisor, estimated that Los Angeles spends more than $100 million a year on issues related to homelessness. Much of those costs are absorbed by the LAPD, but they're borne by other agencies as well, like parks, paramedic services, street maintenance, and libraries — an average of 680 to 780 homeless people are believed to visit each of the city's 73 libraries daily. Garcetti said Tuesday that homelessness has been a "heartbreaking crisis" in Los Angeles for decades, and it's time to "tackle it head-on." Catherine Garcia