Sun, May

Anybody Wonder Why the Homelessness Discussion is Missing from the 2016 Presidential Campaign?


SKID ROW- Since 2016 is an “election year” for all levels of government -- from neighborhood councils to the White House – it’s usual for the topic of “homelessness” to come up freely and often, with empty rhetoric abounding aplenty.

But for some strange reason, not a single presidential candidate has spoken about homelessness as a part of his or her political platform. The closest any of them have come to that is one Republican nominee who fundraised for the Wounded Warrior Project – that is, until two top executives were fired for wasting donated money. 

The Presidential debates have drawn millions of viewers, high ratings, and yet not one debate moderator has mentioned homelessness in a question. And these are some of the most respected and knowledgeable journalists in their field today. 

Obviously homelessness has not been solved and is not on a clear path to being solved. In fact, homeless across America is on the rise. So what gives? 

The view from here, “the homeless capitol of America,” looking all the way up the totem pole of life, as it relates to politics, one wonders if the “numbers game” is being played. 

What is the numbers game? 

Looking at homelessness on a national level -- like a presidential candidate should -- there are 300 million people in America, (rounded from 319 million for the sake of simple math.) It is estimated that there are 1.6 million homeless Americans nationwide. That may seem like an enormous number of homeless people, but it’s actually less than 1% of the total U.S. population. 

Furthermore, it can be said that 1.6 million is only a little more than one-half of one percent. Through that lens, it is virtually impossible to generate any Federal dollars to address homelessness because not enough Americans are affected and/or would benefit from it as a budget line item. But politicians in Washington, DC are entrusted to care for the majority of Americans. 

It’s not a people game, it’s a numbers game. The numbers just aren’t big enough to move the “Federal dollar’s Richter scale.” 

That said, due to much smaller budgets, neither local nor State governments can allocate enough funding to adequately combat the fast-growing “un-natural disaster” of homelessness. 

So when Mayors and Governors across America hold press conferences and “reassure Americans” that they’ve got everything under control, don’t believe them! Especially here in Los Angeles. 

Without significant Federal funding, lower level politicians would fare better trying to convince folks that they at one time played in the Revolution behind Prince (RIP.) 

One beacon of light on a Federal level is Congresswoman Maxine Waters’ newly-proposed $13.27 billion homeless initiative called the “Ending Homeless Act of 2016,” which, over five years, would provide housing and services for homeless people. Importantly for us in Skid Row, it would target areas where homelessness “has reached critical proportions,” according to Water’s office. 

Further, Waters is the top Democrat on the House Committee on Financial Services. So while it looks good on the blue side, her bill still needs support from the other side of the aisle. That’s where “We, The People” come in. We all need to support this effort to generate the type of significant funding homelessness so desperately needs…including our local representatives, as well as the current presidential candidates! 

Why isn’t this being discussed on a national platform? Waters is a female Democrat and there’s a female Democrat on the presidential campaign trail. There’s also a Democratic candidate who says he’s “for the poor people.” There are Republican candidates who are losing so badly that they need a heart-touching cause to shake things up and bring more attention to their campaign. This is a cause worth considering. Plus, it would be good to know now whether or not whomever is elected the next President will support this funding and help push the bill to fruition. 

Locally, there are several potential ballot initiatives, all of which are various types of taxes that, if approved, would create a new funding pot to address homelessness in Los Angeles. (If approved, only one would go on the ballot.) 

With Waters’ federally-proposed initiative on the table, and American taxpayers paying into funding pots that should have already addressed homelessness, why would we as taxpayers tax ourselves again? Especially when significant Federal funding is looming. It’s clear where the support should go. 

What’s not clear is why this isn’t a talking point of any of the Presidential candidates? 

Maybe it’s because they deal with much more money. Obama’s current budget proposal is $1.41 trillion. So maybe $13 billion is a measly amount of dough.


(General Jeff is a homelessness activist and leader in Downtown Los Angeles.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

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