Af­ter at­tack­ing

Shift comes af­ter Trump pre­vi­ously at­tacked state of­fi­cials over the is­sue

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY JEFF STEIN, ERICA WERNER AND JOSH DAWSEY jef­[email protected]­ [email protected]­ [email protected]­

state politi­cians over Cal­i­for­nia’s home­less­ness cri­sis, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion now seeks co­op­er­a­tion.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has shifted its ap­proach for ad­dress­ing Cal­i­for­nia’s home­less­ness cri­sis, seek­ing to work more co­op­er­a­tively with lo­cal lead­ers, ac­cord­ing to three of­fi­cials with knowl­edge of in­ter­nal plan­ning. This is a sharp con­trast to the pres­i­dent’s ap­proach in the fall, which in­cluded mul­ti­ple pres­i­den­tial broad­sides aimed at Cal­i­for­nia politi­cians.

Ad­vis­ers to Pres­i­dent Trump met at the White House on Jan. 3 to dis­cuss the is­sue. Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials now hope to work closely with Los An­ge­les Mayor Eric Garcetti (D). They are con­sid­er­ing whether to send hun­dreds of fed­eral work­ers and ad­di­tional money for ser­vices if a deal can be reached, one of­fi­cial said.

Af­ter the pres­i­dent had threat­ened to in­ter­vene in Cal­i­for­nia, Congress in De­cem­ber ap­proved new re­stric­tions on how the ad­min­is­tra­tion could use cer­tain home­less­ness funds.

At­tor­neys with the Of­fice of Man­age­ment and Bud­get and the Depart­ment of Hous­ing and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment are re­view­ing that lan­guage, and it is not clear whether it would com­pli­cate the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ef­forts to ad­dress the sit­u­a­tion in Cal­i­for­nia, of­fi­cials said.

The of­fi­cials spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause they were not au­tho­rized to speak about in­ter­nal plan­ning mat­ters.

The White House strat­egy comes af­ter Trump spent months cas­ti­gat­ing Cal­i­for­nia’s Demo­cratic of­fi­cials for the state’s grow­ing home­less pop­u­la­tion. The pres­i­dent’s in­sis­tence since last sum­mer that ad­vis­ers do some­thing about the “dis­gust­ing” prob­lem of home­less­ness in ma­jor U.S. cities spurred a pro­longed ef­fort to find solutions across sev­eral fed­eral agen­cies.

Home­less­ness in the United States rose for a third straight year in 2019, fed­eral of­fi­cials said in De­cem­ber, pri­mar­ily be­cause of the con­tin­ued in­crease in Cal­i­for­nia.

In the fall, White House of­fi­cials were con­sid­er­ing ac­tion to force home­less peo­ple in Cal­i­for­nia cities into fed­eral en­camp­ments, and of­fi­cials from mul­ti­ple fed­eral agen­cies toured an aban­doned Fed­eral Aviation Ad­min­is­tra­tion site as a po­ten­tial place to re­lo­cate peo­ple.

“The pres­i­dent has never been look­ing for a takeover from the fed­eral govern­ment,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said. “The pres­i­dent has seen a prob­lem state and lo­cal lead­er­ship have failed to deal with and asked the team to pre­pare op­tions for his con­sid­er­a­tion.”

Congress in­cluded re­stric­tive new lan­guage in a year-end spend­ing pack­age that sets pa­ram­e­ters for a pot of fund­ing re­lated to ad­dress­ing home­less­ness. Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials pre­vi­ously thought they had wide dis­cre­tion to spend th­ese funds, ac­cord­ing to one per­son with knowl­edge of in­ter­nal plan­ning.

Also, the Supreme Court de­cided in De­cem­ber not to take up a lower court’s rul­ing pro­tect­ing home­less peo­ple from pros­e­cu­tion for sleep­ing out­doors. A fa­vor­able rul­ing from the Supreme Court could have made it eas­ier to en­act ad­min­is­tra­tion plans to use law en­force­ment to ad­dress home­less­ness.

Trump said last week on Twitter that the fed­eral govern­ment would help cities com­bat home­less­ness if they ask for help “po­litely.” That marked a shift in tone from Septem­ber, when Trump told reporters about Cal­i­for­nia’s home­less­ness cri­sis, “We’re look­ing at it, and we’ll be do­ing some­thing about it.”

The ad­min­is­tra­tion’s po­si­tion ap­pears to lower the chances the White House de­fies the wishes of state and lo­cal of­fi­cials in im­ple­ment­ing its own home­less­ness ini­tia­tives.

Garcetti and HUD Sec­re­tary Ben Car­son in re­cent days dis­cussed work­ing to­gether on pro­vid­ing fed­eral help for the city’s home­less pop­u­la­tion, as well as the pos­si­ble pro­vi­sion of fed­eral fa­cil­i­ties, ac­cord­ing to a per­son fa­mil­iar with the con­ver­sa­tion. The con­ver­sa­tion was first re­ported by the Los An­ge­les Times.

The of­fi­cials have ex­changed let­ters, and Car­son and Garcetti are ex­pected to meet in Wash­ing­ton this month when Garcetti at­tends a con­fer­ence of may­ors, the per­son said.

De­tails of the po­ten­tial col­lab­o­ra­tion re­main vague, and no plans have been fi­nal­ized. HUD’S home­less count in Cal­i­for­nia was 22.5 per­cent higher in 2019 than in 2010.

Con­gres­sional ne­go­tia­tors put lan­guage in the $1.4 tril­lion ap­pro­pri­a­tions pack­age in­tended to limit the wide dis­cre­tion ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials could have had to spend that money, ac­cord­ing to two peo­ple with knowl­edge of the draft­ing process.

The leg­is­la­tion also states that the ad­min­is­tra­tion must “re­ceive prior writ­ten ap­proval” from House and Se­nate ap­pro­pri­a­tors be­fore us­ing cer­tain re­cap­tured fund­ing of th­ese grants for other pur­poses.

Sev­eral months ago, Trump was struck by con­ser­va­tive tele­vi­sion cov­er­age of conditions in Los An­ge­les’s Skid Row area and wanted the nee­dles, card­board boxes and trash to be cleaned up, ac­cord­ing to a se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial.

Trump was con­founded that there were re­stric­tions that pre­vented the fed­eral govern­ment from tak­ing over, the per­son said. But he has re­cently pro­posed a more co­op­er­a­tive ap­proach.

Three days af­ter the White House meet­ing this month, Trump wrote on Twitter that the home­less­ness cri­sis “is a state and lo­cal prob­lem, not a fed­eral prob­lem,” but that the fed­eral govern­ment could help.

“If how­ever, the city or state in ques­tion is will­ing to ac­knowl­edge re­spon­si­bil­ity, and po­litely asks for help from the Fed­eral Govern­ment, we will very se­ri­ously con­sider get­ting in­volved in or­der to make those poorly run Demo­crat Cities Great Again!” Trump tweeted.


Pedes­tri­ans walk by home­less peo­ple sleep­ing in San Fran­cisco in 2018. Amid ris­ing home­less rates na­tion­ally, HUD’S home­less count for Cal­i­for­nia was 22.5 per­cent higher in 2019 than in 2010.

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