While a majority of the country experienced a decline in homelessness from 2018 to 2019, the state of California experienced a 16.4 percent increase, according to a statement released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
While California Gov. Gavin Newsom has attempted to blame the Trump administration, HUD Secretary Ben Carson said the homelessness “crisis” in California needs to be addressed from its roots.
According to the 2019 Annual Homelessness Report to Congress, the country as a whole saw a 2.9 percent increase of homelessness from 2018 to 2019. Almost all of that increase, however, was driven by the West Coast — specifically in California and Oregon.
California’s increase was “more than the total national increase of every other state combined,” according to Carson.
This troubling statistic led Carson to call on state and local officials to address the issue with “crisis-like urgency.”
“As we look across our nation, we see great progress, but we’re also seeing a continued increase in street homelessness along our West Coast where the cost of housing is extremely high,” Carson said in a Dec. 20 HUD media release.
“In fact, homelessness in California is at a crisis level and needs to be addressed by local and state leaders with crisis-like urgency. Addressing these challenges will require a broader, community-wide response that engages every level of government to compassionately house our fellow citizens who call the streets their home.”
On Dec. 19, after the sixth Democratic presidential primary debate, Newsom predictably blamed HUD and the Trump administration for the rise in homelessness in his own state.
“They’re not serious about this issue,” he said. “They’re playing politics with it. Expect nothing but division coming and emanating from the folks at HUD and the Trump administration.”
— Carla Marinucci (@cmarinucci) December 20, 2019
Fox Nation host Tomi Lahren shared the tweeted video and implored Newsom to take responsibility for his own citizens.
“Take accountability, Gavin. This is your state and you and your democratic cohorts created this mess,” she wrote on Twitter. “You can’t blame @realDonaldTrump forever. Step away from the hair gel and get to work!!!”
The president responded to Lahren and Newsom’s remarks on Christmas Day.
“Governor Gavin N has done a really bad job on taking care of the homeless population in California,” Trump tweeted. “If he can’t fix the problem, the Federal Govt. will get involved!”
Carson appeared on Fox News on Monday and said the homelessness crisis is the responsibility of the state and local officials, not the federal government’s.
“We have to realize these are fellow American citizens and many cases they are people that are incapable of taking care of themselves and other cases they’re people who have fallen on hard times,” Carson said, highlighting the humanity in the midst of an issue that Gov. Newsom has tried to use to attack the Trump administration.
“In either case, we do have the ability to take care of them, but it should be recognized that this is a state and local government responsibility,” Carson continued. “It is not the responsibility of the federal government.
“Federal government is quite willing to help, however, in these situations. And particularly given the fact that it’s reached crisis proportions in California, but it’s going to require local authorities and the state to cooperate — stop throwing fire bombs and wanting to actually to get this thing done.”
Carson suggested the solution to the crisis wouldn’t be a simple fix, but that by looking at facts and considering the root causes of homelessness, California could see success similar to what Texas has accomplished over the past decade.
“Look at Texas and how much their homelessness has gone down over the last year and over the last five to seven years. Significant decreases because the policies don’t encourage people to sleep on the streets,” he said. “They encourage people to go to the places where they can get the kind of help that will get them into the right situation.”
According to the 2018 Annual Homelessness Report to Congress, Texas saw a 27.9 percent decrease in homelessness since 2010.
Carson added that sensible solutions to address the mental health of those who are homeless is more compassionate than allowing them to “do anything they want to do.”
“I have to look at the way people treat people who are mentally ill,” he said. “Some people say it’s compassionate just to let them do anything they want to do.
“That’s not compassionate at all.
“What’s compassionate is helping people who cannot take care of themselves manage. And if we can get them into the right setting so they’re getting proper medications and counseling, many of them become quite functional at that point.”
Gov. Newsom has also been critical of the Trump administration for not taking a “housing first” initiative, but Carson argued that focusing on ideology such as “housing” first isn’t effective.
“Now people don’t mean to do bad things; don’t get me wrong. You know, housing first, for instance; it’s meant to be a good thing; just get people off the street, don’t have any requirements of them and you’ve done your job,” he said. “But I think it should be housing first, second and third.
“Housing second: You figure why they’re on the street in the first place; and housing third: You fix it.
“That’s where the real compassion comes in.”
Carson explained that the areas that are implementing a housing first approach have seen a decrease of 77,078 transitional beds even though the unsheltered homeless population has increased by 35,000.
“Do the math,” he said. “You have to really be able to look at all those facts; look at at the data. Then make your decisions on that, not on ideology. That is the key to fixing this problem.”
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