The president, who is visiting the San Francisco Bay area and Los Angeles this week for fundraisers, has made his attacks on liberals in California a theme of his campaigning, and Democrats in the state have sued his administration dozens of times. Los Angeles’ Skid Row, an area considered the epicenter of the homelessness crisis, has also received increasing national attention, including a tour by Trump administration officials last week and a visit Tuesday by the Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke.
The CEA report noted that almost half of all unsheltered homeless people live in California, and said that “policies such as the extent of policing of street activities” may play a role in why some states have larger homeless populations. The report also said “more tolerable conditions for sleeping on the streets … increases homelessness”.
Tom Philipson, the CEA chairman, did not elaborate on how policing could be used in a call with reporters, according to the Washington Post. It’s unclear if the president would have any legal authority to use law enforcement to move people from the streets, and homelessness is an issue typically handled by local governments.
Research has repeatedly shown that criminalization of the homeless, particularly sending people living on the streets to jail, is ineffective and costly. Arrest and incarceration can make it harder for people to find housing and can leave them with criminal records and fees that create new obstacles. Still, laws that prohibit “camping” on the streets are common in cities across the US, and officials in LA have been pushing for further restrictions on where people can sleep outside.
The CEA report noted that “policies intended solely to arrest or jail homeless people simply because they are homeless are inhumane and wrong”, but said “when paired with effective services”, policing can be useful.
“This approach contributes to the problem rather than solving it,” said Osha Neumann, a civil rights lawyer who has long advocated for the homeless in northern California. “The idea that we can criminalize our way out of a crisis that is the result of the failure of the system to provide basic human needs for a large percent of our population is ridiculous.”