President Donald Trump on Tuesday complained that California's homelessness crisis is harming the "prestige" of major cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, remarks that housing advocates said displayed more sympathy for wealthy real estate investors and property than the human beings suffering from soaring rent and lack of affordable homes.
Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One while on his way to Silicon Valley for a two-day California trip, Trump said homeless people are living in "our best highways, our best streets, our best entrances to buildings."
"It's an abomination that homelessness exists in the United States, not that rich businessmen are annoyed by poor people. That's right, it's not that it's uncomfortable to 'look at.' Homelessness is a life-threatening crisis."
"People in those buildings pay tremendous taxes, where they went to those locations because of the prestige," the president said.
"In many cases they came from other countries and they moved to Los Angeles or they moved to San Francisco because of the prestige of the city, and all of a sudden they have tents," Trump continued. "Hundreds and hundreds of tents and people living at the entrance to their office building. And they want to leave. And the people of San Francisco are fed up, and the people of Los Angeles are fed up. And we're looking at it, and we'll be doing something about it."
Trump also expressed deep concern for police officers who he claimed are "getting sick" from interacting with the homeless.
"They're actually sick," the president said. "They're going to the hospital. We can't let that happen."
Observers were quick to condemn Trump for his inhumane comments and refusal to offer real solutions to the crisis of homelessness in California and throughout the nation.
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"The president's remarks are abhorrent," Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, told the Washington Post. "He's apparently more concerned with the doorways and streets than with the people who are homeless and sleeping on them."
In a series of tweets responding to Trump's remarks, housing advocate Jared Thompson said "it's an abomination that homelessness exists in the United States, not that rich businessmen are annoyed by poor people."
"That's right, it's not that it's uncomfortable to 'look at,'" Thompson added. "Homelessness is a life-threatening crisis for anyone experiencing it, and it happens to adults, to the elderly, to families, to young people, and to children. It's unacceptable, and we have to do more."
2: Homelessness isn’t vagrancy, it’s the inevitable result of systemic, institutionalized policy failures by every level of government over the course of centuries. It’s systemic racism, inequity, & intentional decisions to help the rich at the expense of everyone else. 5/14
— Jared Thompson (@JaredKThompson) September 18, 2019
The Trump administration is reportedly weighing a number of proposals to "address" the homelessness crisis in California, including more "policing," destroying encampments, and moving homeless people to government-run facilities.
Housing advocates decried such proposals as cruel steps that would ultimately do nothing to solve the underlying problems that produced the homelessness crisis.
"The solution to homelessness is affordable homes," said Yentel, "not further criminalization, punishing poor people for their poverty, sweeping people experiencing homelessness into increasingly unsafe areas, or warehousing people in untenable and unsustainable conditions."