LA to Trump team's tour of homeless camps: 'We're on it. Show us the money'

Chris Megerian, Benjamin Oreskes and Gale Holland, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

LOS ANGELES -- The Trump administration's trip to Los Angeles this week to explore ways to remove homeless street camps has left city officials confused -- with reactions ranging from cautious optimism about new resources to fear about forced mass relocations to government-run facilities. Many also suspect the whole thing was just a political stunt.

"The feds are very late to this," said Branimir Kvartuc, an aide to Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino. "We're on it. Show us the money and let us spend it."

The busload of Trump officials who toured skid row and other locations Tuesday did not meet with Mayor Eric Garcetti or with L.A. County officials, although staff from City Hall was on hand.

The administration didn't provide additional details about its plans. But President Donald Trump is expected to visit San Francisco on Tuesday, and then head to Los Angeles with a midday stop in San Diego on Wednesday.

Trump has long denigrated cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York, as blighted jungles overrun by criminals and homelessness -- a tactic some have speculated is part of a campaign strategy heading into the 2020 presidential election. In July, Trump told Fox News that he was "looking very seriously" at removing mentally ill and sick homeless people who "ruin" life for people who live and work in cities.

Without mentioning the homeless specifically, Trump on Thursday night said that conditions in American cities were deteriorating under Democrats' watch.


"Take a look at what's going on. We're going to have to step in and do something about it. Because we can't allow that to happen to our great cities. Los Angeles is a great city," he said at a Republican conference in Baltimore, another city he has criticized. "Clean it up. You've got to do something. You can't have it. These are our great American cities and they're an embarrassment."

As of January, Los Angeles County had just shy of 59,000 homeless people, while within the city, the number was more than 36,000 -- a 16% annual increase.

Overall, officials in L.A. and across California said that they'd welcome Trump declaring a federal state of emergency, but that the money it would unleash should be spent on housing, not sweeps of homeless camp or shelters.

"A state of emergency would be far more meaningful than wiping out homeless encampments," said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, co-chair of Gov. Gavin Newsom's new statewide homelessness task force. "It's unclear what Trump is planning to do, and I don't know if it's clear to him."


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