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News > U.S.

US Gov't Criminalizes Homeless People, Ignores Causes: Analyst

  • A homeless person sleeps on the sidewalk in the skid row area of downtown Los Angeles, California.

    A homeless person sleeps on the sidewalk in the skid row area of downtown Los Angeles, California. | Photo: Reuters

Published 2 October 2019

As a solution to the issue, the president and his administration consider the use of police to withdraw homeless people from the streets. 

Last month, after he visited the state of California for a few days, United States President Donald Trump launched a discussion about homelessness rising at an alarming rate in the country, targeting specifically the overcrowded Californian state.


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“Nearly half of all the homeless people living in the streets in the U.S. happen to live in the state of California,” Trump said during a rally.

“What they are doing to our beautiful California is a disgrace to our country. It’s a shame. The world is looking at it. Look at Los Angeles with the tents and the horrible, horrible, disgusting condition,” the U.S. head of state added.

As a solution to the issue, the president and his administration, which is blind to the root causes of homelessness in the U.S., is considering instead the use of police force to eliminate the homeless from the streets. 

A report from Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) released in September, stated that “policing may be an important tool to help move people off the street and into shelter and housing where they can get the services they need.”

Days after the report’s publication, the president complained to reporters about the presence of homeless people in California, saying they live in “our best highways, our best streets, our best entrances to buildings” where people “pay tremendous taxes,” adding that “Los Angeles and San Francisco destroy themselves by allowing what is happening.”

According to Grace Holland who covers homelessness and poverty for the Los Angeles Times, the number of homeless people living in tents has been steadily increasing since 2011, to reach almost 60,000 people in 2019.

Holland, in a recent interview with the Real News, reported on the case of a community highly affected by homelessness in Pacoima located in the northern San Fernando Valley region of Los Angeles.

The racially segregated community is mostly constituted of the descendants of working-class Black U.S. citizens who settled in the neighborhood, one of the few places in Los Angeles County where Blacks could buy homes before the 1960s and the passage of federal fair housing laws.

Many social and economic factors led the descendants of these people to find themselves living in tents in the streets, particularly with the collapse of U.S. manufacturing in the area, and the introduction of crack cocaine and mass incarceration of Blacks in the nation over the past few decades. 

Holland criticized Trump’s criminalization of the homeless, saying that the administration wants to use law enforcement to clear away homeless encampments, which would lead to further punishment of the already vulnerable population that needs mental health care and drug addiction services. Holland says those without homes would be treated as lawbreakers who will unjustly be placed in federal prisons and detention centers.

“There is an awful lot of people that started using drugs in the street to self-medicate or for mental health problems that may have led to them being in the street,” Holland told Real News.

Holland also denounced Trump administration plans as unrealistic due to the number of police in the city in comparison with the number of homeless people. Some 60,000 live in the streets and the city retains some 10,000 police officers.


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