Trump administration rejects CA effort to obtain more funds to fight homelessness

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The Trump administration is rejecting requests by California for more funding to address the homelessness crisis, saying the state's own policies have been a major contributor to the problem.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, who is visiting Los Angeles on Wednesday, said California's policies on law enforcement, undocumented immigrants and housing have all increased the state's homeless population.

"Your letter seeks more Federal dollars for California from hardworking American taxpayers but fails to admit that your State and local policies have played a major role in creating the current crisis," Carson wrote in a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom and other officials.

Carson's letter also blamed the state's policies on undocumented immigrants for contributing to the problem.

"Further, illegal and inadmissible aliens are increasing housing demand and draining resources," the letter also states. "Instead of protecting the most vulnerable Americans from the economic impacts of illegal immigration, California has doubled down on sanctuary State and city policies and provided benefits to illegal and inadmissible aliens."

"These policies strain precious resources and reduce housing options for American citizens, especially the needy and those most likely to become homeless."

Carson was responding to a letter from Gov. Gavin Newsom, as well as representatives of California's cities and counties.

The letter to Trump requested 50,000 more housing vouchers for extremely low-income Americans, including many veterans, in addition to increasing the value of those vouchers and creating a program to work with landlords to help voucher holders find stable housing.

He also asked the president to support a bill by Rep. Maxine Waters, the Ending Homelessness Act of 2019, which would provide for 300,000 new housing vouchers nationwide.

While Carson's letter said the federal government would not provide more funds for housing, Carson said the administration would work with California if it first changes some of its policies.

"The Trump Administration is doing its part," Carson wrote. "California needs to address the obvious local issues within its control to help address this catastrophe. When California has shown that it is willing to make hard and thoughtful choices to address these issues, the Trump Administration stands ready to support its efforts."

President Donald Trump is also visiting California this week, on a trip to attend several fundraisers for his re-election campaign.

On Tuesday, the president said he will do "something" about homelessness but offered no specifics beyond the mention of creating a task force.

"We can't let Los Angeles, San Francisco and numerous other cities destroy themselves by allowing what's happening," Trump said aboard Air Force One. He said police officers on the beat are getting sick and that tenants want to move because of the homeless problem.

"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 will be doing something about it at the appropriate time," Trump said.

Trump attended a fundraiser dinner in Beverly Hills on Tuesday at the home of real estate developer Geoffrey Palmer.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Tuesday morning said he would welcome Trump's help to end homelessness if he contributed federal dollars or property that could be converted into shelters.

"I know I'm just supposed to punch the president back but if he is real about it, I'll believe it when I see it, but I'll also trust that he wants to save some lives as well," the mayor said. "Certainly I do. We could do that together."

Garcetti, separately speaking in a video recorded at one of an eventual 26 housing facilities being built to transition people from life on the streets, noted that the president would be in Los Angeles to raise funds for his reelection campaign.

"But I wanted to talk to him a little bit as if he had come down here to South LA to understand and to hear the challenges we face and ways that Washington, D.C. - instead of demonizing us - might be able to actually come and help us," Garcetti said.

Garcetti pushed back on a Trump assertion in a July interview that homelessness was a phenomenon that began two years ago.

"I'd like to reassure the president it didn't start two years ago when you became president. It didn't even start six years ago when I became mayor. But it is our collective watch and our collective responsibility to solve this," Garcetti said.

Garcetti pointed to a Sept. 10 letter in which he urged Trump to provide funding for a new veterans housing development, support appropriations for federal programs that address homelessness and create economic opportunities and rescind proposed federal rules that would evict mixed-status immigrant families from assisted housing and prevent transgender homeless people from going into federally funded shelters.

The mayor, who noted that homelessness occurs at a higher rate in Washington, D.C., than in Los Angeles, said it was "time for us to pause politics and not to demonize Americans that are on the street."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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