LA’s Gigantic Homeless Problem Could Derail Anti-Trump Mayor’s White House Bid

Photo of Chris White By CHRIS WHITE, Energy Reporter

Los Angeles’s chronically high homeless rate is threatening to torpedoe the political career of Mayor Eric Garcetti as the virulently anti-Trump Democrat mulls a possible White House bid in 2020.

Mayor Eric Garcetti is scratching and clawing for solutions to LA’s unsheltered homeless problem as the Democrat continues mulling a run for the White House in 2020. Analysts argue the city’s ever-increasing number of transient citizens could cost him if he runs for higher office.

“If there’s any hope of running for president, that’s the problem he has to fix,” Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a public-policy professor at the University of Southern California, told The Los Angeles Times. “It taints his legacy as mayor, and it’s also a risk if he wants to move up.” 

Garcetti, who has made no-bones about his plans to take on Trump, aims to get half of the city’s more than 25,000 homeless people into shelters before the end of his term. He has traveled across the country, talking jobs and infrastructure, while drawing a distinction between himself and Trump.

Yet the homeless population has exploded in LA under Garcetti’s stewardship while national economic indicators show strong growth during Trump’s first year-and-a-half. The homeless population ballooned to 49 percent since 2013, when Garcetti was first elected. People are falling into homelessness inside the city limits faster than officials can handle.

Several factors are to blame for the upsurge, he said in an interview Friday. Surging rents and rising inequality, the opioid crisis and lighter criminal penalties have pushed greater numbers of people onto the streets, Garcetti said.

“It is a bigger problem than it’s ever been,” said Garcetti, who traveled to Iowa in April to dispel notions about California being too elitist for common folk. “We’ve had the right strategies, but we’ve never had the master plan, and we’ve never had the resources.” Most of his solutions involve spending hundreds of millions of dollars on emergency shelters. 

The mayor plowed a record $430 million into the city budget in 2018 to curb homelessness. Garcetti is also providing $20 million to city council districts to build shelters within a six-month window. He’s offering those communities an additional $17 million in sanitation and cleanup funds. His city’s problems are not that much different than those plaguing the rest of California.

Economic pressures like steep housing prices and gas taxes are causing middle-class families to leave California in droves and head toward red states. Those migrating from the coastal state are making way for places like Las Vegas and Arizona, where housing prices are relatively cheap compared to California. Those on the lower end of the economic latter live on the street. (RELATED: Middle Class Workers Are Bailing On California And Making For These Red States)

Median monthly rent for a Los Angeles one-bedroom apartment is $2,300, while it’s more than $3,400 in San Francisco, according to industry tracker Zumper. The median rent for a Las Vegas one-bedroom unit is $925 and $945 in Phoenix. Some of the most popular areas for Californians from 2015 to 2017 were Texas, Arizona, Oregon, Washington and Colorado, United Van Lines data shows. Nevada remains a top destination, other experts also said. (RELATED: Governor Brown’s Move To Hike California’s Gas Taxes Could Doom Dems As Elections Approach)

California saw a loss of over 138,000 people in that 12-month period, according to U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey data, which show more people moved out of California from 2016 to 2017 than into the state. Texas experienced an uptick of more than 79,000 people during that same time. Arizona and Nevada also gained more than 63,000 and 38,000 residents, respectively.

 

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