Former President Donald Trump’s plan to end homelessness is to criminalize it, an idea critics find appalling.
“Under my strategy, working with states, we will ban urban camping whenever possible.” Trump said in a video posted Tuesday.. “Violators of these prohibitions will be arrested, but will be given the option to accept treatment and services if they are willing to be rehabilitated.”
There were nearly 600,000 homeless Americans last year, and according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH), there has been a nationwide organized effort to make homelessness illegal. Several states have already enacted bills to this effect, including Texas, Tennessee and Missouri, NAEH states on its website.
In California, the state with the largest homeless population, Trump in 2019 demanded their removal from Los Angeles and other cities in the state. the washington post informed at the timeclaiming that Trump pressured White House officials to get homeless people off the streets and into government-backed facilities.
The same year, Trump also referred to the Maryland congressional district of then-Rep. Elijah Cummings, which he said was full of homeless people and called Baltimore “disgusting” and “rodent infested.” Trump’s critics responded by sharing photos of neighborhoods in Republican-controlled districts that also showed homelessness, poverty and waste.
news week reached out to representatives for Trump, the National Coalition for the Homeless and NAEH for comment by email.
Trump in 2020, according to the Associated Presspressured to take down former president Barack Obama’s House First Initiative, which prioritized finding a place to live with no homeless requirements. Once housing is secured, the person is offered social services, such as job training, addiction treatment, and counseling.
Trump’s latest plan, released as he seeks the Republican nomination for president, is unconstitutional and will discourage people from seeking help when they really need it, Alan Mills, CEO of Uptown People’s Law Centersaid news week in a phone interview Tuesday. Mills said Trump’s comments left him dismayed but not surprised by the former president’s antics based on Trump’s long history of anti-homelessness agendas.
“It’s blatant in the Constitution that you can’t arrest people just because they don’t have a home,” Mills said. “But more importantly, it doesn’t work. People are not homeless because they are afraid of punishment. People are homeless because they don’t have a home.”
The civil rights attorney said any time homelessness is criminalized, people are much less likely to approach social services or nonprofit groups out of fear of being sued for a crime. He said he may have even greater implications by discouraging those who normally volunteer or help the homeless.
“If you’re worried about getting arrested for supporting someone who is committing a crime, are you going to hand them free water? Are you going to hand them a meal? The next thing that happens is that Trump will criminalize helping people who commit the crime.” the crime of homelessness,” Mills said, adding that he has seen it happen in his neighborhood, where local politicians try to prevent food deliveries on the grounds that it only encourages homelessness.
Trump said his proposal calls for creating “tent cities” and relocating the homeless to “big plots of cheap land” with access to doctors, psychiatrists, social workers and drug rehab specialists. He claims that his plan will once again make cities “livable” and “beautiful.”
“For those who are only temporarily unlucky, we will work to help them reintegrate quickly into a normal life; for those who have addictions, substance abuse and common mental health problems, we will put them in treatment.”
While social media users were divided on the plan, many found it “abhorrent.” VoteVets, a veterans advocacy group, said on Twitter that instead of continuing progress in helping homeless veterans, “Trump wants to find them and throw them into what can best be described as internment camps.”
However, some praised Trump’s idea. Conservative author and anti-Islam activist Brigitte Gabriel tweeted: “[President] Joe Biden wants to solve the problem of homelessness in Ukraine. Donald Trump wants to solve the problem of homelessness in the United States.”
Mills said that if politicians really want to solve homelessness, the solution is simple: provide people with housing. She highlighted the Housing First program as an example of how providing permanent housing can improve quality of life and allow people to focus on well-being and personal goals.
“It’s much easier to provide, for example, mental health care and drug treatment when people have a home rather than a tent,” he said, adding that US cities should focus on building housing more affordable instead of punishing people who are already down on their luck.