Politics

US Election 2016: Donald Trump and the fears for America's homeless

Despite 500,000 people being homeless in the US, why was the issue completely absent from the presidential campaign?

The presidential election was full of distractions: Hillary Clinton’s emails, Donald Trump’s “locker room talk”, the day-to-day polling data – to name but a few. A Harvard study said substantive policy issues had received only a small amount of attention from major TV networks and newspapers’ election coverage.

Coverage that could have included how key decisions on foreign and domestic policy will be affected by the election’s outcome, the appointment of the newest Supreme Court justice, and the challenge of income-equality and health care.

With a lack of focus on policy from both candidates (try as they might in their online presences) and major media coverage, it makes sense that once again homelessness wasn’t present in a presidential election.

For Trump or Clinton not to mention the homeless situation in this country, I feel they have no clue

It’s nothing new. Despite more than 500,000 homeless Americans and a national increase in unsheltered homelessness, the issue is largely ignored during presidential campaigns.

“It’s very frustrating that year after year we see politicians from both parties frequently talking about the middle class, but rarely talking about poverty and, in particular, those experiencing homelessness,” says Eric Tars, senior attorney with the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty in Washington, D.C.

Neither Trump nor Clinton mention homelessness on their websites.

“For Trump or Clinton not to mention the homeless situation in this country, I feel they have no clue,” says Vicky Batcher, a homeless mother and vendor with The Contributor street paper Nashville (pictured top). “[It] speaks volumes that they just don’t care.”

The State of the Nation’s Housing Report says 11.4 million families in the U.S. are paying more than 50 per cent of their income toward housing. In the 10 cities with the highest housing costs, 50 per cent of those earning $45,000-$75,000 spend at least 30 per cent of their income on rent.

Trump, the first candidate to build his brand on real estate, was not quoted mentioning affordable housing during his campaign. He shares no housing policies on his campaign website. Affordable housing was attached to his campaign earlier this year when Westchester County (N.Y.) Executive Rob Astorino claimed that Trump told him that, if elected, he would rescind the Housing and Urban Development’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule. The legal requirement, finalised in 2015, pushes HUD funding recipients to further work to overcome patterns of segregation.

“We really believe that affordable housing is one of the central issues of our time,” Tars says. “All of the issues from the housing crisis that were created in 2007 are still persistent in many communities. We’ve had close to 40 years in disinvestment in affordable housing. We’ve lost federal funding for publicly subsidised housing and it certainly hasn’t been made up by the private sector or state and local governments.”

With no mention of how the candidates might approach, let along attack the problem, it exemplifies the fact Clinton and Trump are out of touch with needs of the most vulnerable.

Amelia Ferrell Knisely is Managing Editor of Nashville-based street paper The Contributor. Courtesy of INSP.ngo

Photo: Vicky Batcher, vendor for The Contributor. By Amelia Ferrell Knisely

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