Michiganders blast Trump’s threats to round up homeless people

Reginald Covington in Detroit | Ken Coleman

Reginald Covington endures hours each day sitting on a plastic milk crate in downtown Detroit soliciting money to help him survive.

Covington is homeless and hadn’t heard about President Donald Trump’s threats to round up America’s homeless population, but he wasn’t surprised.

“It’s a thing way over him. It’s global,” the native Detroiter said. “He’s part of a worldwide thing.” 

Covington, who declined to offer his age or details about his life, believes that economic security is a rich vs. poor issue and that Trump is simply a mouthpiece for the wealthy. 

The Trump administration has threatened to raze homeless tent camps. Administration officials last week toured a former Federal Aviation Administration facility in California as part of their search for a site to relocate homeless people, the Washington Post reported

It’s unclear what legal authority the administration has to take these actions, the Post noted.

President Donald J. Trump gestures toward the flight line on his arrival to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019, in San Diego, Calif. | Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead

The president arrived in the state on Tuesday, leveling sharp criticism on how the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco have addressed the homelessness issue. Trump complained that homeless people are sleeping in “our best entrance to buildings” where people “pay tremendous taxes.”

“We can’t let Los Angeles, San Francisco and numerous other cities destroy themselves by allowing what’s happening,” Trump said as reported  by the Los Angeles Times. 

He also claimed, without evidence, that American residents are leaving the country because of what they call the negative aspects of homelessness. 

“They can’t believe what’s happening,” Trump said. 

More than 550,000 people experienced homelessness on any given single night in 2018, according to a National Alliance to End Homelessness report.  The study suggests at least 8,351 Michigan residents experienced homelessness last year. 

Covington is one of many Michigan residents who are responding to Trump’s stance on homeless people. 

Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes, May 18, 2019 | Andrew Roth

“Poverty and homelessness are a crisis that only grows worse if we turn a blind eye to it,” said Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes on Thursday. “But where Americans see a problem in need of leadership and solutions, Donald Trump sees dollar signs and more ways to divide. Trump’s words are never profound and always destructive, but there is more than just cruelty at the core of this man, and he has made it clear to all Americans that his only concerns are self-enrichment and self-preservation.”

Detroit City Council President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield is chair of the legislative body’s homelessness task force. 

“It’s unfortunate and tragic to have a commander-in-chief who views the most vulnerable of American citizens as an embarrassment while showing more concern and compassion for buildings and appearances,” Sheffield said. “The real embarrassment is that in the richest country in the world we lack the political will and leadership to take care of the least of thee among us – many of whom are veterans, mentally ill, disabled or have suffered some other tragedy in their life that lead to their situation.” 

Julie Cassidy

Julie Cassidy, a Michigan League for Public Policy research analyst, said that Trump’s recent comments “reflect a profound ignorance of the causes of and solutions to the homelessness.

“Everyone needs a safe place to live, but the president would rather revel in degrading vulnerable people at the worst point in their lives than get serious about creating an economy that respects the safety, health and dignity of all human beings in our country,” she said.

Advance Editor Susan J. Demas contributed to this story.

Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.


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