Scapegoating the homeless for climate crisis

Two weeks ago, when President Donald Trump flew to California for two days to fundraise for his election campaign, his trip was shrouded in secret. No one knew until the last minute where he was going to be. Yet in that short amount of time, Trump was able to attack and scapegoat poor and homeless people in San Francisco and Los Angeles with racist and false allegations. 

One of the first statements out of Trump’s mouth when he returned to Washington, D.C., was that the homeless population of San Francisco was responsible for pollution, and they had to be stopped. He said he would direct the Environmental Protection Agency to cite the city of San Francisco for violating environmental rules by allowing homeless people to dump their  “used needles” in storm drains leading to the ocean. This president, who pulled out of the Paris Agreement on climate change last year, is suddenly concerned about pollution and environmental damage!

Needless to say, Trump’s comments were met by a firestorm of anger from San Francisco’s environmental and homeless activists and even elected officials. David Lewis, executive director of Save the Bay, said, “Trump has less standing to complain about pollution and homelessness than pretty much anybody, since his administration is actively gutting the Clean Water Act and other environmental laws that protect us all from pollution.” (mercurynews.com, Sept. 19)

Save the Bay and three other local environmental organizations have just filed a major lawsuit against Trump’s EPA to save California’s wetlands, which have been stripped of protection by Trump.

If Trump had done his homework, he would have learned that the Bay Area has one of the safest and most effective water systems in the country, which filters out all solids before sewage waters reach the bay. According to San Francisco Mayor London Breed, Trump’s claims are ridiculous. She told the Mercury News that “absolutely no debris flows out into the Bay or the ocean.” 

Homeless advocates also attacked Trump’s comments. Advocates point out that homelessness has been increasing much faster than services. It is well known that housing costs have skyrocketed in the Bay Area, so that most working people, even those with two incomes in their family, cannot afford to live in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley or nearby communities.

Lack of real affordable housing is the main reason for homelessness. While Bay Area mayors were incensed with Trump’s anti-homeless remarks, their administrations have been part of the attacks on homeless communities. Throughout the Bay Area, homeless encampments have been taken down and destroyed by the police; homeless people are cited and arrested for sleeping outside; and people’s cars and RVs are routinely ticketed and towed. Bay Area mayors, while administering poorly funded services to the homeless community, have received major contributions from developers and business interests.

Homelessness is a crisis of monumental proportions in California, perhaps the wealthiest state in the country. Trump visited the rich while he was here and used his visit to viciously attack some of the most vulnerable of the working class — the homeless population. 

Save the Bay’s Director Lewis said it clearly in a statement to the media: “The way to reduce the impacts from homeless encampments is to reduce homelessness.” 

In other words, people need homes. Clearly the capitalist system does not have solutions to the environmental or the homeless crisis. Socialism, a system that puts people’s needs before company profits, is the only system that can provide homes for everyone and save the Earth.

Judy Greenspan

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Judy Greenspan

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