Washington, DC - The new White House Council of Economic Advisers’ report on homelessness in America combines cherry-picked data, faulty analysis and wildly inaccurate diagnosing of both the problem and its solutions. In addition to getting the fundamentals of homelessness wrong, their policy prescriptions completely miss the mark. Deregulation, increased policing and greater “self-sufficiency” won’t end homelessness - affordable homes, and the federal subsidies that make them possible, will.
Homelessness in California is a crisis, as it is in many other areas of the country - one that demands urgent action at the federal, state and local levels. Federal action to solve the crisis is long overdue, but President Trump and his administration are clearly not acting in good faith to end homelessness.
Instead, the president and HUD Secretary Carson have attempted, time and time again, to worsen homelessness in our country. They’ve proposed drastically shrinking or eliminating federal programs that keep the lowest-income people affordably housed, tripling rents for the lowest-income subsidized residents, and raising rents for all subsidized residents. The administration proposed evicting 100,000 people, including 55,000 American children, from subsidized housing. In California, over 37,000 people are at risk of eviction from this Trump proposal alone. And they’ve proposed allowing homeless shelters to discriminate and refuse shelter to transgender and other LGBTQ people.
In its report on homelessness, the White House strongly implies that increased police presence and arrests would alleviate homelessness. Let’s be clear: the federal government has no authority to direct city police departments to increase arrests of people who are homeless. Courts have ruled that it is unconstitutional to arrest people for sleeping on sidewalks or in parks if there is literally no other place for them to sleep, like in much of Los Angeles and San Francisco. To do so would be “cruel and unusual punishment,” as the human need for sleep is unavoidable.
Not only is criminalization of homelessness unconstitutional and cruel, it wastes public resources that should otherwise be spent on solutions. A Yale University study found that cities spend $87 per day to jail a person versus $28 dollars per day to provide them a home. A Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) case study found that in Vermont prisons are three times more expensive than permanent supportive housing.
The solution to homelessness is affordable homes – 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. If the Trump administration wants to solve for the challenges of homelessness, it should start by protecting and expanding funding for programs that end homelessness, not working to cut or eliminate those very programs.
About NLIHC: Established in 1974 by Cushing N. Dolbeare, the National Low Income Housing Coalition is dedicated solely to achieving socially just public policy that ensure people with the lowest income in the United States have affordable and decent homes.