(Eric Risberg/AP)
(Eric Risberg/AP)

By Jeff SteinErica Werner and Josh Dawsey Jan. 14, 2020 at 3:00 a.m. PST

The Trump administration has shifted its approach for addressing California’s homelessness crisis, seeking to work more cooperatively with local leaders, according to three officials with knowledge of internal planning. This is a sharp contrast to the president’s approach in the fall, which included multiple presidential broadsides aimed at California politicians.

Advisers to President Trump met at the White House on Jan. 3 to discuss the issue. Administration officials now hope to work closely with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D). They are considering whether to send hundreds of federal workers and additional money for services if a deal can be reached, one official said.

After the president had threatened to intervene in California, Congress in December approved new restrictions on how the administration could use certain homelessness funds. Attorneys with the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Housing and Urban Development are reviewing that language, and it is not clear whether it would complicate the administration’s efforts to address the situation in California, officials said.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about internal planning matters.

The White House strategy comes after Trump spent months castigating California’s Democratic officials for the state’s growing homeless population. The president’s insistence since last summer that advisers do something about the “disgusting” problem of homelessness in major U.S. cities spurred a prolonged effort to find solutions across several federal agencies.

Homelessness in the United States rose for a third straight year in 2019, federal officials said in December, primarily because of the continued increase in California.

In the fall, White House officials were considering action to force homeless people in California cities into federal encampments, and officials from multiple federal agencies toured an abandoned Federal Aviation Administration site as a potential place to relocate people.AD

“The president has never been looking for a takeover from the federal government,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said. “The president has seen a problem state and local leadership have failed to deal with and asked the team to prepare options for his consideration.”

[Trump pushing for major crackdown on homeless camps in California, with aides discussing moving residents to government-backed facilities]

Congress included restrictive new language in a year-end spending package that sets parameters for a pot of funding related to addressing homelessness. Administration officials previously thought they had wide discretion to spend these funds, according to one person with knowledge of internal planning.

Also, the Supreme Court decided in December not to take up a lower court’s ruling protecting homeless people from prosecution for sleeping outdoors. A favorable ruling from the Supreme Court could have made it easier to enact administration plans to use law enforcement to address homelessness.