Are Homeless Encampments Trump’s Next Big Policy Push? Should former President Donald Trump survive the multitude of lawsuits filed against him, the FBI investigation into who knows what, and the Democrats’ efforts to imprison him, a 2024 presidential campaign announcement is quickly approaching – and with it, a host of new Trump policies designed to rally his populist base and win over independent voters concerned about inflation, crime, and homelessness.
“Save America” will be the slogan and the message of his campaign. In 2016, Democrats asked Trump when he thought America was “great.” It’s a tough question to answer, given that every era in America’s history faced its own unique problems. This time, Trump faces the question, “Save America from what?”
It’s a question that’s much easier to answer, and the answer is a hard one for the Democrats to argue with. On top of an inflation crisis, the nation is experiencing a rising wave of crime and homelessness – and it’s a problem that’s most pronounced in Democrat-run cities.
As a New Yorker who has fled to Florida, Trump knows this. In a slew of speeches made over the last year, Trump has made explicit reference to the rise in violent crime in Democrat cities and has floated two policy proposals to tackle it.
These proposals, should they officially become a part of his 2024 platform, will join his 2016 promise to “Build A Wall” as cornerstone policies and as the Democrats’ primary targets to discredit him.
In July, in his first speech in Washington, D.C, since leaving the White House, former President Donald Trump put forward his plan to end the homelessness crisis. Trump proposed removing the homeless from city streets and placing them in camps designed to give them a safe place to live. The camps would also provide potentially life-saving care and support to homeless people struggling with addiction. Trump said that those taken from the cities would be placed in “large parcels of inexpensive land in the outer reaches of the cities.”
It’s a policy built around compassion, but one which can easily be misrepresented and interpreted as a bigoted, mean-spirited plan to discriminate against the less fortunate.
The problem with criticizing Trump on this idea is that the policy already exists in some places, though not on the scale the former president is probably envisioning. Rick Caruso, a Los Angeles Democrat, running for mayor, already proposed a temporary housing solution for homeless people – suggesting 30,000 beds within a year. From this perspective, it’s hard for Democrats to argue with Trump on moving the homeless out of the cities – and if whoever is the Democrats’ 2024 candidate has any sense, they’ll make similar proposals.
What seems more likely, however, is that Trump’s comments will be misrepresented as a plot to throw disadvantaged people into concentration camps. They’ve done it already with his policy on the border, and his use of the word “camps” is a dream come true for the likes of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her Squad.
Death Penalty for Drug Dealers
Trump’s recent comments about implementing the death penalty for drug dealers are not completely decoupled from the homelessness crisis, either.
Cracking down on drug dealers would do an awful lot to prevent people from succumbing to addiction and resorting to living on the streets in the first place. Whether adopting such a draconian policy on drug dealing in the United States would work is a conversation the country is likely to have over the next two years. It’s true, though, that the countries that have already implemented the policy don’t suffer the same addiction crisis as the U.S. does.
For Trump, however, adopting the policy into his official 2024 platform presents a big problem; it’s an easy target for Democrats who have spent the last five years painting him as an authoritarian.
Nonetheless, the fact remains that homelessness is a significant crisis in the United States – and left-leaning news outlets have been writing about it for the last two years.
Makings Of An “Acute Crisis”
In February, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released the 2021 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress. The report found that over 326,000 people experienced sheltered homelessness in the United States on a single night in 2021 – a decrease of 8% over 2020. The report also claimed that COVID-19 relief had “positive impacts on sheltered homelessness” – but no matter how the Biden administration attempts to spin the numbers, the homelessness crisis is worsening across American cities and is correlating with a dramatic rise in crime.
America’s homelessness crisis is just getting worse, and even Democrat-friendly news outlets have to admit it’s happening in Democrat-run cities. The New York Times reported in July how the problem “has the makings of an acute crisis,” with reporter German Lopez describing how shelters across the country are reporting a surge in people looking for help, with inflation “compounding the problem.”
“Homelessness has become a particularly bad political problem for the Democrats who govern big cities, where it is most visible. It has played a role in recent elections, like the recall of San Francisco’s district attorney last month,” Lopez reports. “More Americans now say they worry a great deal about homelessness compared with the years before the pandemic.”
The Guardian reported how California’s “humanitarian catastrophe” has worsened over the last two years, with “deaths of people on the streets are rising; college students are living in their cars; more elderly residents are becoming unhoused; encampment communities are growing at beaches, parks, highway underpasses, lots and sidewalks.”
For a state that keeps reporting record-high budget surpluses, it’s hard to imagine why nothing more is being done to curb this problem – whether that’s providing additional support to homeless people or getting tougher on homeless drug addicts who commit crime.
The Burlington Free Press reported in February how homelessness rose by the second largest amount in Vermont when compared to other states in 2020 and 2021. Only California was impacted worse by homelessness than Vermont, according to HUD data, with 2021 showing a 133% increase in Vermont residents seeking support from emergency shelters and other transitional housing.
Academics also say that senior homelessness is becoming a significant crisis across the country, predicting that the number of people retiring on the streets will almost triple over the next decade.
Correlating with a rise in violent crime across American cities, this crisis is already costing lives of both those impacted directly by homelessness and those who have to live among it. The question is – how long will voters back the party that allows this to happen?
How Long Will Voters Accept Homelessness and Crime On Their Streets?
There has to come a time when city voters – typically Democrat voters – use their vote to protest the damage being done to their neighborhoods. Backing Trump in 2024 would be a big decision for many of these voters, and for some, it’s entirely out of the question.
Trump’s policies on tackling homelessness could give him the edge over a Democratic candidate who doesn’t take the problem seriously. It could win over independents in the cities, and it may attract the votes of a handful of Democrats who desperately want something to change. Alternatively, Democrats may withhold their vote entirely – again giving Trump the edge.
We probably know Trump’s 2024 platform. That means the Democrats know what they’re running against, too. If they’re smart, they’ll be prepared with a solution to the homelessness crisis of their own – or better yet, take action over the next two years to start improving the lives of voters they could be on the verge of losing.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.