The Trump administration says 'humane policing' could be used to reduce homelessness

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters at the White House before departing to Fayetteville, North Carolina in Washington, U.S. September 9, 2019. REUTERS/Erin ScottFILE PHOTO: Trump heads to FayettevilleReuters

  • The Trump administration said this week it could address homelessness through heavier law enforcement activity.
  • That has drawn backlash from advocacy groups who argued that it could effectively criminalize homelessness and impose legally-questionable regulations on local governments.
  • Trump was expected to address the issue on Tuesday and Wednesday at campaign fundraising stops across California.
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The Trump administration said this week it could address homelessness through heavier law enforcement activity, but it wasn't immediately clear whether any such initiative would face legal challenges.

"When paired with effective services, humane policing may be an important tool to help move people off the street," acting chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers Tomas Philipson said Monday following the release of a new White House report on homelessness.

The CEA said a policy to arrest or jail individuals solely because they were homeless would be "inhumane and wrong." But officials did not offer any specific proposals for how police would be asked to help reduce homelessness.

"We need more research on the extent to what types of policing policies, what types of ordinances affect that," said a senior administration official. "I think, policy-wise, obviously there's lots of options that are being considered."

The call for increased policing has drawn backlash from advocacy groups who argued that it could effectively criminalize homelessness and impose legally-questionable regulations on local governments.

"Not only is criminalization of homelessness unconstitutional and cruel, it wastes public resources that should otherwise be spent on solutions," said Diane Yentel, the chief executive of the nonpartisan National Low Income Housing Coalition. "President Trump and his administration are clearly not acting in good faith to end homelessness."

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President Donald Trump has often criticized liberal urban areas for their handling of the homelessness crisis. He is expected to address the issue on Tuesday and Wednesday at campaign fundraising stops across California, which has one of the highest concentrations of unsheltered homelessness in the country.

"We're going to give them notice," Trump said of California at a conference for congressional Republicans in Baltimore last Thursday, without elaborating. "In fact, we gave them a notice today: Clean it up. You got to do something."

In its report, the CEA also blamed homelessness on overregulation in the housing market. It estimated that deregulation would reduce homelessness by an average of nearly a third in major cities, including by 40% in Los Angeles, by 36% in Washington, and 23% in New York City. In San Francisco, the administration said it could cut homelessness in half.

"Reducing regulations in a carefully designed way should be part of any wide-ranging attack on homelessness, but won't come close to doing the job alone, as they indicate," said Dan O'Flaherty, a professor of urban economics at Columbia University whose work was cited in the CEA report. "Not all regulations are created equal, though, and there are no specific recommendations for specific regulations."

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