Things That Matter

He Didn’t Make The Debate Stage But Julián Castro Was On The Streets Of LA Talking Homelessness And How To Fix It

Although rules and performance requirement prevented him from joining seven other Democratic candidates on the debate stage, Julian Castro was still out delivering his message. This time he was in Los Angeles’ Skid Row neighborhood to discuss with residents how he, as President, could work to improve the nation’s housing crisis.

The homelessness crisis facing most California cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, was once again a national story this week, with the Supreme Court agreeing to pass on hearing arguments in an appeal of Martin vs. Boise, a case concerned with the criminalization of the homeless. That decision leaves the ruling of the 9th Circuit of Appeals, which includes California, in place, which argues that cities can’t criminalize the homeless unless they provide adequate shelter

So it made sense for Castro to use the opportunity to introduce the groundwork for a housing plan that his administration would put forward should he win the 2020 election.

Julián Castro met with residents of LA’s Skid Row to discuss housing issues and the growing homelessness crisis.

Credit: @JulianCastro / Twitter

Castro said he had visited previously as housing secretary, and believes that the Trump administration — which is considering using law enforcement to clear homeless encampments as part of a federal plan — has taken a hostile stance against the homeless population. As president, Castro said, he would work to reverse the administration’s decisions.

Castro is the third presidential candidate who has publicly toured skid row this year, said Lisa Marlow, communications coordinator of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a nonprofit that is tracking the candidates’ statements on housing. Vermont Sen. Sanders toured in August and former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke, who dropped out of the presidential race last month, visited in September.

LA’s Skid Row neighborhood has one of the country’s highest concentrations of people experiencing homelessness.

While walking along the neighborhood, which has one of the largest homeless populations in the country, the former Housing and Urban Development secretary spoke with individuals about his housing plans.

One man, who recognized the candidate and yelled out “Castro,” asked him, “What are you going to do differently than anybody else?”

The Mexican-American contender replied, according to the Los Angeles Times: “I actually put out the boldest housing plan to try and end homelessness by 2028, by creating a lot more housing opportunities for everyone.”

The former San Antonio mayor’s plan, People First Housing, declares that housing is a human right and aims to end chronic homelessness.

Credit: @JulianCastro / Twitter

His detailed plan addresses the following issues that are contributing to the growing homelessness crisis:

  • Making rents more affordable through a renter’s tax credit, increased rental vouchers for at-risk and low-income people, while increasing the availability of adorable housing through new land use and zoning policies.
  • Increase homeownership through additional government programs, increased federal lending and by holding Wall Street accountable in relation to responsible lending.

Through these two approaches, Castro hopes to put an end to the nation’s homelessness crisis by the year 2028. It’s an ambitious goal but one that many say is attainable with clear and concise tools.

Other candidates also have put out housing policy plans.

Amy Klobuchar’s “Housing First Plan” pledges a trillion dollars toward improving housing and poverty reduction. Klobuchar is calling to fund the Housing Trust Fund at a minimum of $40 billion per year. The money would go toward building, fixing and operating homes for low-income families. 

Additionally, Klobuchar calls for limiting wait times for housing assistance to three months, down from the nearly two to three years her campaign said Americans may wait on a list. The plan also calls for a new grant program for states to provide temporary support for those at risk of homelessness while they wait for housing assistance. 

The senator also proposes creating a federal grant program to help states increase outreach to low-income renters and make them aware of resources available to them. To ease issues connecting low-income renters to affordable housing, Klobuchar also calls for reducing associated fees and streamlining the application process. 

California, and Los Angeles in particular, are ground zero for the nation’s affordable housing crisis.

California’s housing crisis continues to swell, fueled by rising rents. This year, L.A. County saw a surge in the number of people sleeping on the streets, in shelters or in their cars, rising to nearly 59,000. More than 36,000 people are homeless in the city of Los Angeles. On skid row, tents and blue tarps line the sidewalks and shopping carts overflow with items.

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