LOS ANGELES (AP) — President Donald Trump began a California visit on Tuesday, saying he will do “something” about homelessness but offering 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.”
In San Francisco Tuesday, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson visited a housing project but rejected an invitation from Mayor London Breed, who wanted to push for increased federal funding for homeless services and affordable housing.
Carson provided no details about the Trump administration’s plans.
“What we really need to focus our attention on is how are we really going to solve this problem and not make it into a political football?” he said.
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.”
Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, also spent Tuesday in Los Angeles where he visited a women’s center on Skid Row.
“I came to listen and to learn from those who are living on Skid Row, those who are serving the people who are living on Skid Row and not just in terms of addressing challenges here but how that might apply to this country,” O’Rourke said. “You could argue that Los Angeles has the best perspective in the United States of America on this issue.”
AP reporter Kevin Freking contributed to this report from aboard Air Force One. John Antczak contributed from Los Angeles and Juliet Williams contributed from San Francisco.