ANDREA PLATE WRITES – What population will be hardest hit by the proposed White House crackdown on homelessness in California? Asian Americans.
Consider these facts: Asian Americans are the fastest-growing major racial or ethnic group in the United States. They are also the fastest – growing homeless population in San Francisco and LA. Homelessness is up 86% in LA’s Koreatown, yet plans for a shelter were recently scuttled by neighborhood protestors—who are nicely housed, of course— on the basis of “NIMBY” (Not In My Backyard).” In San Francisco, where Asian Americans constitute nearly 36% of the population, homelessness has increased steadily over the past ten years.
Worse, the Asian American homeless population is sadly undercounted. Parents don’t want to risk losing their kids when census takers, or social service and government representatives, see the dire conditions in which they are forced to live (no running water, no individual bathrooms) So they hunker down in motels—often paid for by the week, or the day—to avoid steep move-in costs and deposits required for more permanent housing options.
Others hide out in single room occupancies, or so-called transitional (a/k/a temporary) housing programs—where, quite literally, they don’t “count” as homeless, because they can’t be seen and heard, like those on the streets (isn’t that the whole point)? Undercounting of course means under-funding, which in turn means under-supplying affordable housing to this fast-growing segment of the homeless population.
Why care now? Just this week, White House big-shots flew west to Los Angeles to sample “poverty porn”—a quick, sneak peek at the oh-so-bad, sad exotica of Skid Row, which is a kind of Vegas Strip for the homeless. Led by LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, they stopped at the South LA. Unified Homelessness Response Center, a pair of homeless shelters at the Jordan Downs public housing complex. Next week, the President will fly in.
They came and went. They walked and talked. Among proposals floated by those on the Trump tour: Razing homeless encampments; criminalizing those who litter, loiter, sleep in cars, on benches, near parks or beneath freeways.
But this misconceived approach was tried, and failed miserably, more than a decade ago, when the ACLU argued that a homeless man in a wheelchair halfway across the street on a red light couldn’t be ticketed for jaywalking—why, he wasn’t even walking! Another suspiciously ill-conceived Team Trump proposal: sweeping up and deporting the homeless to government-backed facilities, like the one widely talked-about, and touted, this week—some large, abandoned, mystery Federal Aviation Administration facility (described as “in or around Los Angeles”).
Of note, this week’s visit came just months after a Fox News segment in which Trump faulted “liberal” California for the homeless humanitarian crisis. No lie there. California is in a state of crisis. Living conditions are inhumane. Perhaps he should cancel the proposal to cut HUD funding by $9.6 billion. Or cancel the tour.
Senior Adviser Andrea Plate, a lecturer on ‘Gender Issues and the Military’ at LMU, is the author of the new book MADNESS, on her 15 years as a licensed clinical social worker with the U.S. Veterans Administration, published by Marshall Cavendish Asia International, in conjunction with Asia Media Press, a subdivision of LMU’s Asia Media International. She holds degrees from UCLA, USC and UC Berkeley.