Trump on blight of homelessness in U.S. cities: 'It's disgraceful'

President Trump says he is “seriously” considering tackling the blight of homelessness in major American cities — an issue that Trump curiously believes began shortly after he became president.

“It’s a phenomena that started two years ago. It’s disgraceful,” Trump told Fox News host Tucker Carlson in an interview that aired Monday night. “We’re looking at it very seriously because you can’t do that.”

Carlson raised the topic by noting that unlike some U.S. cities, places like Tokyo and Osaka, Japan — where the president recently traveled for the G-20 summit — are “clean.”

“There’s no graffiti. No one going to the bathroom on the street. You don’t see junkies,” Carlson said. “But New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, they’ve got a major problem with filth.”

Trump agreed.

“It’s very sad,” he said.

While the number of homeless people in the United States has remained more or less the same since 2016, it has fallen considerably in the last decade. In 2018, there were about 553,000 homeless people, according to data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or nearly 100,000 fewer homeless people in the country than in 2008.

Homelessness in San Francisco and Los Angeles, however, is on the rise.

“You can’t have what’s happening — where police officers are getting sick just by walking the beat,” the president said, perhaps referring to the recent report of a Los Angeles police officer who was diagnosed with typhoid fever.

“I mean, they’re getting actually very sick, where people are getting sick, where the people living there [are] living in hell too,” Trump continued.

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Homelessness in Philadelphia
One portion of the first encampment to be cleared is already evacuated at a homeless encampment in the Kensington section of Philadelphia on May 30, 2018. (Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 24: A man uses heroin under a bridge where he lives with other addicts in the Kensington section of Philadelphia which has become a hub for heroin use on January 24, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Over 900 people died in 2016 in Philadelphia from opioid overdoses, a 30 percent increase from 2015. As the epidemic shows no signs of weakening, the number of fatalities this year is expected to surpass last year's numbers. Heroin use has doubled across the country since 2010, according to the DEA, part of an epidemic. Officials from Philadelphia recently announced that they want to become the first U.S. city to allow supervised drug injection sites as a way to combat the opioid epidemic. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Gregory Kelly, 52, who has been homeless for 2.5 years, holds a "Pope Weekend Survival Guide" issued to the homeless by Broad Street Ministry on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, September 23, 2015. Benjamin Franklin Parkway, a stretch of cultural centers and grassy parks where homeless sleep and tote their belongings in plastic bags, is undergoing papal security checks and cleanup that will displace some of the downtrodden that Francis champions. Philadelphia, a city of 1.5 million people, counts about 5,500 people living on the streets or other unsheltered areas, but that number does not include those in some of the city's poorest areas, homeless services group Project HOME said. The parkway, which will host two events attended by Francis, has been designated a top U.S. Secret Service security zone for the visit. Picture taken September 23, 2015. REUTERS/Mark Makela
Gregory Kelly, 52, who has been homeless for 2.5 years, is interviewed on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, September 23, 2015. Benjamin Franklin Parkway, a stretch of cultural centers and grassy parks where homeless sleep and tote their belongings in plastic bags, is undergoing papal security checks and cleanup that will displace some of the downtrodden that Francis champions. Philadelphia, a city of 1.5 million people, counts about 5,500 people living on the streets or other unsheltered areas, but that number does not include those in some of the city's poorest areas, homeless services group Project HOME said. The parkway, which will host two events attended by Francis, has been designated a top U.S. Secret Service security zone for the visit. Picture taken September 23, 2015. REUTERS/Mark Makela
A homeless man lies on a steam vent outside the location of the 2017 "Congress of Tomorrow" Joint Republican Issues Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. January 27, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Makela
Nick McNicholl, 65, who has been homeless for 10 years, is interviewed on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, September 23, 2015. Benjamin Franklin Parkway, a stretch of cultural centers and grassy parks where homeless sleep and tote their belongings in plastic bags, is undergoing papal security checks and cleanup that will displace some of the downtrodden that Francis champions. Philadelphia, a city of 1.5 million people, counts about 5,500 people living on the streets or other unsheltered areas, but that number does not include those in some of the city's poorest areas, homeless services group Project HOME said. The parkway, which will host two events attended by Francis, has been designated a top U.S. Secret Service security zone for the visit. Picture taken September 23, 2015. REUTERS/Mark Makela
A customer named Shem places a note on the restaurant wall after donating a dollar at Rosa's Fresh Pizza in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania January 10, 2015. The $1 a slice pizzeria, owned by Mason Wartman, a former Wall Street equity researcher, which opened in December 2013, has provided 8,500 slices of pizza to the homeless in the last 9 months. With a 'pay-it-forward' approach, customers donate dollars to feed those in need. REUTERS/Mark Makela (UNITED STATES - Tags: FOOD SOCIETY POVERTY)
Michael Grant, 28, "Philly Jesus," helps a homeless man to his feet in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania December 18, 2014. Nearly everyday for the last 8 months, Grant has dressed as Jesus Christ, and walked the streets of Philadelphia to share the Christian gospel by example. He quickly acquired the nickname of "Philly Jesus," which he has gone by ever since. REUTERS/Mark Makela (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY RELIGION)
Philadelphia Police Officers talk with one of the homeless residents who already has his belongings moved from a homeless encampment in the Kensington section of Philadelphia on May 30, 2018. (Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
City workers pack a resident's property to go into storage while he's in treatment for his opioid addiction after being evicted from a homeless encampment in the Kensington section of Philadelphia on May 30, 2018. (Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A clock ticks on among items intended to beautify a sleeping area for a couple living at a homeless encampment in the Kensington section of Philadelphia on May 30, 2018. (Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
The middle encampment of the large three site whole sets quietly in the early morning it will be the only site not raided today at a homeless encampment in the Kensington section of Philadelphia on May 30, 2018. (Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 24: Melanie, who is homeless, eats dinner at the Broad Street Ministry (BSM) which serves thousands of free meals five days per week while also providing the homeless with a mail center, a clothes mending facility, counseling and medical screenings for the homeless and those that are in financial distress on January 24, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia continues to be ranked as the poorest of the 10 most populous cities in America with an estimated 25.7 percent of its population living in poverty. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
A propane tank used for cooking is tucked away between two tents at a homeless encampment in the Kensington section of Philadelphia on May 30, 2018. (Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - FEBRUARY 08: Malvina Whitaker, who has been homeless for about 6 months, holds a sign the reads 'I'm homeless but it could B worse!! At least I'm not Tom Brady!' downtown during festivities on February 8, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Whitaker said she followed her father to the United States from Australia but he left 'u2013 she stayed and fell on tough times. The city celebrated the Philadelphia Eagles' Super Bowl LII championship with a victory parade. (Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 24: A man uses heroin under a bridge where he lives with other addicts in the Kensington section of Philadelphia which has become a hub for heroin use on January 24, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Over 900 people died in 2016 in Philadelphia from opioid overdoses, a 30 percent increase from 2015. As the epidemic shows no signs of weakening, the number of fatalities this year is expected to surpass last year's numbers. Heroin use has doubled across the country since 2010, according to the DEA, part of an epidemic. Officials from Philadelphia recently announced that they want to become the first U.S. city to allow supervised drug injection sites as a way to combat the opioid epidemic. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 24: A man prepares to buy heroin under a bridge where he lives with other addicts in the Kensington section of Philadelphia which has become a hub for heroin use on January 24, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Over 900 people died in 2016 in Philadelphia from opioid overdoses, a 30 percent increase from 2015. As the epidemic shows no signs of weakening, the number of fatalities this year is expected to surpass last year's numbers. Heroin use has doubled across the country since 2010, according to the DEA, part of an epidemic. Officials from Philadelphia recently announced that they want to become the first U.S. city to allow supervised drug injection sites as a way to combat the opioid epidemic. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 21: A man who is a homeless heroin addict pauses under a bridge where he lives with other addicts in the Kensington section of Philadelphia which has become a hub for heroin use on July 21, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Over 900 people died last year in Philadelphia from opioid overdoses, a 30 percent increase from 2015. As the epidemic shows no signs of weakening, the number of fatalities this year is expected to surpass last year's numbers. Heroin use has doubled across the country since 2010, according to the DEA, part of an epidemic of opioid abuse that began in the 1990s, when doctors began prescribing higher doses of powerful painkillers. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Jessica, a homeless heroin addict, walks along the railroad tracks near the bridge where she lives in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on April 14, 2017. In North Philadelphia, railroad gulch as it is known, is ground zero in Philadelphia's opioid epidemic.80 percent of us want to get out,'said Jessica, before outlining the numerous ways she has tried to get treatment for her addiction. In one case, she said, there weren't any available beds. In another, a treatment provider required a positive drug test before delivering aid, meaning if she hadn't used recently she'd be denied. Instead of getting treatment, she spends her nights trying to keep warm on a mattress under a bridge,the very spot where she was raped and infected with HIV. People come from throughout the city, and some as far away as the Midwest, for heroin that is remarkably cheap and pure at the largest heroin market on the East coast. / AFP PHOTO / DOMINICK REUTER (Photo credit should read DOMINICK REUTER/AFP/Getty Images)
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The president then relayed an idea homeless advocates say is a myth: that some people choose to be homeless.

“Some of them have mental problems where they don’t even know they’re living that way. In fact, perhaps they like living that way,” he said. “They can’t do that. We cannot ruin our cities.

“People that work in those cities,” Trump continued, “they work in office buildings and to get into the building, they have to walk through a scene that nobody would have believed possible three years ago.”

The president went on to blame the “liberal establishment” for preventing him from cleaning up encampments of homeless people.

“This is what I’m fighting,” he said.

Trump then said he successfully solved the blight burden in the nation’s capital shortly after taking office.

“I had a situation when I first became president, we had certain areas of Washington, D.C., where that was starting to happen, and I ended it very quickly. I said, ‘You can’t do that,’” Trump said. “When we have leaders of the world coming in to see the president of the United States and they’re riding down a highway, they can’t be looking at that. I really believe that it hurts our country.”

Homelessness in Washington, D.C., has dropped 12 percent since 2015, according to the city.

But the problem is personal for the president elsewhere too.

“I own property in San Francisco, so I don’t care except it was so beautiful,” Trump said. “And now areas that you used to think as being, you know, really something very special, you take a look at what’s going on with San Francisco, it’s terrible.

“So we’re looking at it very seriously,” he added. “We may intercede. We may do something to get that whole thing cleaned up. It’s inappropriate. Now, we have to take the people and do something. We have to do something.”

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