Homelessness is super sad, President Donald Trump conceded — at least for the white-collar workers walking by unsheltered people to get into their office buildings.
For the people actually experiencing homelessness, though, Trump didn’t offer much sympathy in an interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Monday night.
Trump said the government “may intercede” in cleaning up West Coast cities swamped with tent cities and vehicle encampments after Carlson suggested people were living in “filth.” To be sure, Trump’s administration has proposed eliminating the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness — twice. The council was established in 1987 to coordinate the government’s homelessness efforts across federal agencies.
“Perhaps they like living that way,” Trump said of unsheltered people. “They can’t do that. We cannot ruin our cities.”
“You have people that work in those cities,” Trump continued. “They work in office buildings and to get into the building, they have to walk through a scene that nobody would have believed possible three years ago."
Homelessness has been gradually increasing in recent years to at least 553,000 people on a single night in 2018, according to government data. (Advocates and scholars have repeatedly said such “point-in-time” counts vastly underestimate the true number of people experiencing homelessness on any given day.)
Currently, about 59,000 people in Los Angeles County alone are homeless — a 12% increase from last year that’s shocked local lawmakers and spurred increased coverage on Fox News over the past month. The crisis is exacerbated by a shortage of affordable rental units in major cities, an inadequate amount of shelter beds, and a lack of resources for drug users or people experiencing mental illness.
But the homelessness epidemic has been used by conservative voices like Carlson to deride left-leaning cities like San Francisco, Seattle, and Los Angeles, where visible homelessness is concentrated and, in some cases, growing worse. During the recent G-20 summit in Osaka, Trump told reporters that San Francisco and Los Angeles have become “sad to look at” due to their liberal leadership.
Fox News recently increased its coverage of the issue, according to the left-leaning group Media Matters, but has mostly argued the crisis is caused by “virtue signaling” and city officials failing to take control of their residents.
“You only have one solution: You bulldoze the 50-block radius, and you institutionalize everybody and detoxify them, and then you let them out,” Fox News host Jesse Watters said of homeless encampments in June.
Cities have tried something pretty close to that: sweeping people off the streets and arresting them, or literally shipping people out of town. Advocates say those efforts don’t help. In fact, Trump mentioned that he “ended” homelessness in Washington D.C. because he was concerned world leaders were “looking at scenes like you see in Los Angeles and San Francisco.”
It’s unclear whether or not “ending” homelessness in D.C. meant that people were given help — but D.C. has greatly increased its efforts to remove homeless camps over the past two years, according to NBC4 in Washington.
“We have to take the people and do something, it’s destroying a whole way of life,” Trump told Carlson.
Cover: Homeless people move belongings from a street near Los Angeles City Hall as crews prepared to clean the area Monday, July 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)