Officials from the Trump administration made their way to Southern California this week, boarded a bus with officials from Mayor Yoga Pant's office, and spent the day riding around Los Angeles, checking out our homeless problem.
They drove through Watts, Skid Row, Pomona, and visited the Unified Homelessness Response Center downtown, all in an effort to report back to President Trump about the scope of the problem so that he could, in their words, 'plan to address the tragedy.'
Trump has called the situation in L.A. 'disgusting' and a 'disgrace to this country.'
What Trump administration officials were on the bus? According to the L.A. Times, Ben Hobbs, White House special assistant for domestic policy was there, along with officials from:
- Department of Veteran's Affairs
- Health and Human Services
- Housing and Urban Development
- Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency
But it seems that both Mayor Garcetti and Gov. Newsom's office were a little baffled at the visit, especially since, in Garcetti's case, no one from the Trump administration asked to meet with him while they were here, even though he has invited the president to meet with him about the situation after the president criticized how he was handling the situation.
Both Garcetti and Newsom offices released statements saying there are things the Trump administration can do 'right now' to address it, if he's really interested in doing so.
Garcetti's statement read, in part:
"To cut to the chase, if you are committed to working with America’s cities and local leaders to address the national epidemic of homelessness there’s a lot you and your Administration can do. While homelessness has increased in cities across the United States in recent years, it’s a problem that predates your administration and mine.
This is a crisis decades in the making. Homeless Americans share one thing in common--trauma. Whether it is a veteran on our streets suffering from PTSD, a woman who has survived domestic violence, or a family whose breadwinner suffers a workplace injury and can’t make the rent, Americans need your help.
We must put politics aside when it comes to responding to this heartbreaking humanitarian crisis. I hope you will provide the federal assistance that is needed to help cities stop homelessness in America and help our veterans and most vulnerable of citizens. This is our watch. This is our time. This must be done. I look forward to working with you and your Administration on this issue."
Nathan Click, spokesperson for Gov. Newsom also released a statement, telling the Times:
"If the president is willing to put serious solutions, with real investment on the table, California stands ready to help. He could start by ending his plans to cut food stamps, gut healthcare for low-income people and scare immigrant families from accessing government services."
L.A. City Councilman Gil Cedillo says he thinks the visit was simply a publicity stunt, especially since President Trump is running for re-election and has used the homelessness situation to criticize political leaders in California. Cedillo told the L.A. Times:
"We're interested in building housing, and finding shelter and transitioning people who are going through really difficult times. And it requires more than a token appearance."
Other elected officials and advocates for the homeless agreed with him saying they'll believe the Trump administration will help when they see it.
But not everyone was skeptical. Rev. Andy Bales, Chief Executive of the Union Rescue Mission said the group seemed 'sincere,' saying that as he led officials on a tour of Skid Row, they showed a lot of interest, particularly in the mobile bathroom units and a tent structure they have set up in their parking lot that houses 120 women. The structures are easy to set up and can be heated or air conditioned.
Kevin Harai, a developer whose company develops residential buildings for the homeless told the Times:
"There was a genuine interest. Part of the conversation was 'What's going on? How can we help?'