Finally, an answer to the homelessness crisis in Los Angeles.
President Trump is on the case.
A gaggle of officials from the White House and federal agencies swept into downtown L.A. on Tuesday, getting a close-up look at our problems and our response to them. The Washington Post reported that Trump had ordered “a sweeping crackdown on homelessness in California.”
There is no concrete plan at the moment, the Post said, and I have to stop right here for a moment, pull up my socks, and read that again.
The president wants a sweeping crackdown without a concrete plan?
Of course, I shouldn’t be surprised. When has there been a concrete plan from this administration on anything?
The Post went on to say that one possibility is razing homeless encampments. That’s not going to happen, folks, but I can’t let go of the image of Trump in a hardhat, behind the controls of a bulldozer, clearing tents and people out of the way to make room for Mar-a-Lago West.
Trump’s team might also, the Post said, take a bigger role in homeless housing and health services.
You know what? It really doesn’t work to be entirely sober while digesting news out of the White House.
If anyone believes the Trump administration is going to help house and treat our 60,000 or so homeless people, good for you. When it comes to pass, the drinks are on me at the new Mar-a-Lago.
There’s actually a better chance Hurricane Dorian will reconstitute itself, boomerang back down the Atlantic Coast, and actually hit Alabama this time.
“His freaking administration is actually causing homelessness,” L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin said in a statement, citing the cuts made under Trump to healthcare and growing income inequality.
Could California use help from the federal government on homelessness?
Sure we could.
Do you remember that story two years ago, when, for the first time in 13 years, the Los Angeles Housing Authority had a lottery to add more people to a waiting list for Section 8 housing? Almost 188,000 applications rolled in, but 90% of applicants were left out in the cold, and those who did make the waiting list are likely to be waiting for years.
You can’t have flat wages, obscene real estate prices, a failed war on drugs and a shredding of federal assistance, and not expect some folks to spill onto the streets.
Trump’s pledge of a national infrastructure plan, if it had come to pass, would have helped.
Cheaper and better healthcare, which he promised was all but guaranteed, would have been a blessing.
The return of those good manufacturing jobs? That would have been dandy.
If Trump wants to help us, he should quit yapping, get to work and deliver what he promised.
Tuesday afternoon, I wandered out to skid row to see what people think about the news that the president is going to take care of everything.
A woman wearing a tiara said she’s gotta believe.
“He is the president, after all,” she said.
What help would she like from Trump?
Help with her rent in a soaring market.
Trump does have a lot of real estate, but I don’t think affordable housing is his thing.
Steve Icenogle, an Air Force veteran who said he’s been homeless since 2002, uttered something unprintable when I asked his thoughts on whether Trump cared about skid row. But then he caught himself, perhaps remembering he was talking about the commander in chief.
“It would be a good thing, if he helped,” said Icenogle, who told me he’s in a bad way with advanced kidney disease.
“I agree with him,” said his pal, Tracy Keys, as the two men sat on cardboard mats, with fallen comrades all around, many of them in obvious physical or mental distress.
Is it fair for Trump to whack our Democratic leaders over the head for standing watch over the development of a humanitarian crisis?
Absolutely, and I’ve done more than a little of it myself.
We’ve got tents all over the place, a spreading culture of lawlessness and hopelessness, three homeless deaths a day, trashed streets and rodents on the run.
Local and state officials jumped on the problem too late, and not high enough, and now we’re in trouble, spending millions on housing thousands of people but losing ground in the process.
But Trump is less interested in solutions than in scoring points with his true believers, and skid row is nothing more than his latest political stunt.
“Where’s Chrissy Teigen when you need her,” said L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, referring to the insults flying on social media between the model, her musician husband John Legend, and the president.
Garcetti said the Trump folks reached out last week and said they wanted to stop by. He said his staff gave a tour to Trump’s team Tuesday with stops at the homeless services command center, a modular housing facility and a remodeled public housing project.
“His budget has proposed slashing public housing … and eliminating community development block grant dollars,” Garcetti said. “It’s totally out of step with the idea that he’s here to help.”