President Bush today called homelessness “an affront to the American dream” and said he wants to help get “ragged and pathetic figures” off the streets of the nation’s capital and urban America.
Addressing a legislative conference of the Independent Insurance Agents of America, Bush talked of riding in his limousine along the Ellipse, just off the White House grounds, and seeing people “on the (heating) grates.”
“It’s a national shame,” the President said in a speech that touched on initiatives he proposed to a joint session of Congress on Feb. 9.
Bush also vowed anew to work “shoulder-to-shoulder” with drug czar William Bennett to mount a new attack on drug abuse as Bennett prepared to meet with city officials in Washington on the capital’s surging drug-related murder rate.
Bush told his audience at a downtown hotel that he thought the problem of drugs in schools and on the streets would show up as the top issue “if I could talk to each one of you in a family setting.”
In a 193-page report to Congress summarizing his fiscal 1990 budget proposals, Bush said his Administration was “committed to addressing forcefully the tragedy of homelessness through public and private action.”
“The homeless face difficult and sometimes seemingly overwhelming obstacles in getting back on their feet,” he said in that message.
City officials estimate that there are 8,000 to 10,000 homeless in Washington, although activists for the homeless have said the figure ranges to 15,000.
Nationally, research shows that the level of homelessness can range from 300,000 to 600,000 on any given night.
In his speech today, Bush said, “Homelessness affects a small proportion of Americans but concerns us all.
‘Ragged and Pathetic Figures’
” . . . You look out the window of the White House and see the ragged and pathetic figures huddled over the steam grates of the Ellipse. It’s an affront to the American dream.”
In his spending blueprint for the budget year beginning Oct. 1, Bush proposed spending $644 million to carry out the aims of the McKinney Act, which created a program to find housing for the homeless.