Photo of the statue in Lafayette Park.
Lafayette Park, Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of Picryl

At the beginning of this month, while visiting another country, our president of the United States and Fox News talking head Tucker Carlson referred to people living on the street as “filth.” Trump went on to say homelessness became a problem in the District of Columbia when he got here two years ago, before rambling that he had done something to end homelessness.

The District of Columbia is a place where the layman cannot afford housing. Communities have been battling social issues like homelessness since the 1980s, and it is wrong to think that an average of about 40 deaths a year due to homelessness — in D.C. alone — started a few weeks ago. 

[Read More: Street Sense Media Executive Director Brian Carome and Artist/Vendor Aida Peery respond to comments by President Trump]

On Thanksgiving Day in 1981, activists from the Community for Creative Nonviolence occupied Lafayette Park — calling it Reaganville — to draw attention to the growing plight of people experiencing homelessness across the country.

Free markets aren’t inclusive. They are “free” to exclusively benefit the wealthy and capitalize on the most vulnerable. For some companies and people to have more than enough, others must go without. The homeless cannot influence the market; at most they are given the chance to complain on websites.

As for the president’s claim that there were “certain areas of Washington, D.C. where that was starting to happen, and I ended it very quickly” — no one can take credit for the community’s work. And homelessness is not yet ended in the nation’s capital. We counted 6,500 experiencing homelessness in one night this January. So that means we have a lot of work to do.

Reginald Black is an artist and vendor with Street Sense Media. He also serves as a consumer representative on the D.C. Interagency Council on Homelessness.