Trump would be wise to leave California’s homeless problem to California’s politicians to solve

July 03, 2019 – It is pretty obvious that the state’s liberal and progressive policies have been a major cause of the problem. | Fox News

President Trump told Tucker Carlson this week that he may need to intervene to help fix California’s homeless problem. For good or bad, it is Trump’s nature to think he is capable of solving just about any problem. (Remember his tweet as the Notre Dame Cathedral was burning: “Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out”?!). But he should resist the urge to get involved in California’s homeless problem. It would be bad politics and bad policy.

California is the richest and highest taxed state in the country yet has double the number of homeless people per capita. From a political perspective, it is pretty obvious that the state’s liberal and progressive policies have been a major cause of the problem. Trump has delivered an economy with historically low unemployment. In San Francisco, unemployment stands at 3.1 percent.

Yet the city’s homelessness is at a 10-year high. Rather than try to deliver big government solutions to San Francisco from the other coast, a dubious plan at best, Trump would be better served politically to highlight California’s problems and note that it is their big government policies that virtually all of his Democratic opponents seek to bring to the rest of the country.

From a policy perspective, there are no obvious solutions for the federal government to implement that could not be done on the local level.  At present this is not a national problem, it is a California problem. And within California, it is primarily a Los Angeles and San Francisco problem. And even within those cities, the problem is far greater in some pockets of the cities than others.

The cause of the homeless problem is complex and unique in California. The prison population here has been drastically reduced in recent years due to overcrowding and more lenient sentencing. Many of these people wind up on the streets. Drugs coming across the border are more prevalent here. New laws and court rulings in California make it difficult for police to enforce laws pertaining to loitering, drug use, and trash. For instance, a Ninth Circuit ruling held that prosecuting someone for loitering on the streets if adequate public shelters are not provided constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

And, those seeking to address the problem are often opposed by those who believe that the homeless have a right to live on the streets and should be left alone. When Los Angeles announced a new plan last week for police to clean up homeless encampments, a local group called Services Not Sweeps protested in front of City Hall. There are many who think the proper solution is making the homeless more comfortable on the streets by providing showers, bathrooms, and garbage collection. The bottom line is that Californians have not unified behind a solution to the problem.

You realize how localized the problem is when driving around the area. I recently observed homeless encampments on only one side of the street. After some investigating, I learned that that side was within the city of Los Angeles, while the other side was in the neighboring Culver City with its own police force and city ordinances.

This is a problem that needs to be solved at the micro-local level. It requires hands-on work by local workers and volunteers, interacting on a daily basis with the homeless. People will donate and volunteer more readily when they know it is going to serve their own community. This is similar to Ronald Reagan’s suggestion that if every church and synagogue would take in 10 welfare families, the homeless problem could be solved. Here in Los Angeles, we need to stop looking toward big far-away government answers and instead seek to solve the problems locally.

Trump acknowledged in the interview that “we really are not very well equipped as a government to be doing that kind of work. It is not the kind of work the government probably should be doing.” Those were no doubt his wisest comments on the subject.


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