September 22, 2019
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Trump officials tour unused FAA facility in California in search for place to relocate homeless people

Cheriss May | TNS
Cheriss May | TNS
President Donald Trump announces the Air Traffic Control Reform Initiative in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Monday, June 5, 2017.

A team of Trump administration officials toured a California facility once used by the Federal Aviation Administration this week as they searched for a potential site to relocate homeless people, according to three government officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private tour.

President Donald Trump has directed aides to launch a major crackdown on homelessness in California, spurring an effort across multiple government agencies to determine how to deal with sprawling tent camps on the streets of Los Angeles and other cities, officials said.

Trump is expected to visit California on Tuesday and Wednesday. One administration official with knowledge of Trump’s visit to California said there were discussions about a announcement related to California’s growing homeless problem next week, but a second official said any decision could be premature and it was not on the current schedule for the trip.

Trump has asked aides to figure out “how the hell we can get these people off the streets,” one senior administration official said.

The FAA facility toured by administration officials is located in or near Los Angeles, but its precise name or whereabouts — or whether it is a current or former government facility — were not immediately known.

It also remains unclear how the federal government could accomplish getting homeless people off the streets of Los Angeles, or what legal authority they would use to do so.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that the administration is considering razing existing tent camps, creating new temporary facilities, or refurbishing existing government facilities as part of Trump’s directive on homelessness. The changes would attempt to give the federal government a larger role in supervising housing and health care for residents.

Some administration officials expressed skepticism that the federal government wanted to get in the business of operating a large homeless shelter in Los Angeles. There were also questions about the feasibility of turning the FAA facility into a shelter and how it could legally be done.

One administration official with knowledge of Trump’s visit to California said there were discussions about a homelessness announcement next week.

Senior administration officials said that forcing people into new facilities was not under consideration, with one official telling The Washington Post: “We’re not rounding people up or anything yet. You guys in the media get too ahead of yourselves.”

The FAA site was visited as part of a Trump administration delegation that included members of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Justice Department.

Los Angeles officials were blindsided by news of the sweeping plans being considered by the administration for the city’s homeless population. Some had thought White House officials were arriving this week to simply learn more about the issues.

The administration’s delegation divulged little information to city officials about what they were doing in Los Angeles during the time they were not with city representatives.

“They were very cagey with us about what they were doing,” said a Los Angeles city official who requested anonymity to speak candidly. “Our only understanding from them coming into this was they wanted to poke around and learn more about what we were doing out here. All this stuff about cracking down and sweeping people out of skid row was a total surprise to us.”

The Trump administration team also met for an open-ended discussion about homelessness with the Los Angeles police union, according to an official with direct knowledge of the meeting, which was first reported by the Los Angeles Times.

At that meeting on Tuesday, administration officials asked how or if the federal government could help local authorities take homeless people off the streets of Los Angeles and into a sanitary place where they could services including showers and meals. They also talked about a recent sweep made of the Tenderloin District in San Francisco, where there is a significant homeless population, the person said.

Administration officials also asked about the “skid row” section of Los Angeles, where homelessness has recently skyrocketed.

City officials gave a tour of the Jordan Downs housing project in Los Angeles on Tuesday to a team that included federal officials from Veterans Affairs, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Domestic Policy Council, the Justice Department and HUD, according to Branimir Kvartuc, spokesman for City Council member Joe Buscaino, a Democrat. About six city staffers and six federal officials were on that tour.

The administration team also visited Los Angeles’ emergency response center for homelessness, a non-profit housing developer, and a homeless shelter in southern Los Angeles, according to a press release from Mayor Eric Garcetti, a Democrat.


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