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Homelessness Rate Up 16 Percent in Los Angeles; Elizabeth Warren Overtaking Bernie Sanders in Polls; Jon Stewart Advocating on Capitol Hill for Extension of 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired June 18, 2019 - 10:30   ET


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: A growing crisis of homelessness on the streets of Los Angeles. Tent cities popping up across L.A. Next, a CNN journalist talks to the people hit hardest by this epidemic.


HARLOW: All right. So this morning, staggering numbers on the growing homelessness crisis in Los Angeles.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: I mean, it's just such a visible problem there. The homelessness rate in the city is up 16 percent, with nearly 60,000 people -- it's like a town -- in L.A., now living on the street. CNN's Maeve Reston, she joins us live.

[10:35:08] So, Maeve, you've been covering this. You've been to the most affected areas -- the infamous Skid Row -- what have you learned about the scope of this problem and what's behind it?

MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, I mean, obviously this is a crisis, Poppy and Jim, that has been many years in the making. Rising rents, people getting pushed out onto the streets from economic hardship, basically.

And what you're seeing now is just 10 encampments, spread all across the city. The most concentrated area, though, is -- still remains Skid Row, where you just see tents lining every street. And it's just a crisis that is so difficult for officials to solve, not just because of resistance to shelters, but also some resistance within the homeless population themselves, to housing.


DEON JOSEPH, LAPD OFFICER: A friend of mine named Lena (ph), she was 70 years old. I tried to house her, tried to house her, tried to house her right there. And then one day, I came back and someone found her dead in a pile of garbage. And, like, a human being, found in garbage.

RESTON (voice-over): People are now seeing tents all over Los Angeles.


RESTON: It's not just in Skid Row.


RESTON: But what is different now?

JOSEPH: Well, what's different now is, we're seeing people coming from other parts of the state and other parts of the country.

Until society looks at this from a realistic standpoint instead of idealistic or political one, Skid Row won't change. It won't change. It's going to continue to look at this and these people who I love are going to suffer.

RESTON (voice-over): The story of Los Angeles has always been one of wealth and Hollywood glamor. But a walk down Sixth Street shows scenes from a different script. Local officials are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to try to address the problem.

But new figures show that homelessness is up a stunning 16 percent over last year. It is a crisis driven by rising rents, a massive affordable housing shortage, and the lack of a cohesive safety net for people struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues.

For nearly two decades, Officer Deon Joseph has watched the crisis build to this breaking point.

JOSEPH: And look at this. These are your good intentions. This is food and clothes that's wasted. The food, that's where the rats and roaches come from. And the rats, you're seeing a couple a night. They're almost as big as cats.

And if you really take a close look --

RESTON: And all this --

JOSEPH: -- the needles.

RESTON: The needles.

JOSEPH: The hypodermic needles are back.

Can I help you up? OK, (INAUDIBLE). Be careful out here.

RESTON (voice-over): Women are among the most vulnerable out here, at risk of sexual assault, domestic violence and continually facing threats from gang members who try to control different blocks.

Mercedes (ph) is among the many who have resisted permanent housing.

RESTON: Why are you sweeping?

MERCEDES (ph), HOMELESS WOMAN: I don't like those rats. I try to sweep to keep the rats from coming to -- they come looking for food. But if they don't find it, they just keep on going. RESTON: Yes.

MERCEDES (ph): And they always running through -- running through the wall in my tent.

JOSEPH: I know Mercedes (ph), my God, for about 15 years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were just simply not paying the appropriate level of attention, not making the investments in the social services and affordable housing. We needed to do a better job.

RESTON (voice-over): L.A. County has opened eight new mental health urgent care centers and a sobering center. The Department of Mental Health has also expanded its outreach.

Some of the formerly homeless now have apartments at Mosaic Gardens at Willowbrook. The children who could have ended up on the streets have a playground, after-school programs and a computer lab.

One of the reasons that Mosaic Gardens got off the ground is because the community got behind the project.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, we're very proud of this. "Not in my backyard" is only because you have a backyard. But if you give them support, if you treat them as human beings, if you recognize their humanity and their right to have a roof over their head, and their right to have security, and their right for their children to be able to sleep in a bed that they can call their own --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- then they too can begin to take ownership.


RESTON: So, obviously, Poppy and Jim, that's the huge challenge here, is getting the people of L.A. to accept more shelters, more housing in their neighborhoods. And that's going to play out over the next couple of years.

HARLOW: Maeve, it's a remarkable story. I mean, I was stunned when I saw the headline. And also, in your reporting, the fact that youth homelessness there is up 24 percent in the last year.

And I just wonder why this is happening when the economy is so good. Is it this issue of the growing income divide? Which, you know, a lot of tech executives like Marc Benioff recently called it, "unbridled capitalism," is that part of what's at play here?

[10:40:09] RESTON: It's exactly -- yes, that's exactly right, Poppy. And you have even the presidential candidates talking about this now, this -- the fact that so many people are facing economic hardship in states like California, where housing prices are through the roof and people just can't afford the rent any more. And so you have families living in cars across the city -- Poppy and Jim.

SCIUTTO: Maeve, we're so glad you're doing this story. It's one of the stories --

RESTON: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: -- we try to do on this broadcast, things folks aren't --


SCIUTTO: -- paying enough attention to, so great to have you on it. Thank you.

RESTON: Thanks.

HARLOW: Yes. Really great reporting.

All right. So coming up for us, should Joe Biden be worried about Elizabeth Warren's recent surge in the polls? We'll talk about that, ahead.


[10:45:42] HARLOW: All right. So today, sources tell CNN that presidential hopeful Joe Biden is set to attend three more fundraisers in New York, and they're expensive. If you want to get in the door at one of them, you're going to pay at least $2,800 bucks. Biden says he's raised close to $20 million since entering the race. He is now facing jabs from fellow Democrat Elizabeth Warren, like this one last night.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've been to a lot of places around this country. I've taken more than 2,000 unfiltered questions from folks. Shoot, I'm over 30,000 selfies now.


So I'm in this. But here's the deal. Ask yourself why I've got the time to do that and most other candidates don't. And the reason is because I'm not spending my time behind closed doors with a bunch of millionaires.


HARLOW: Ouch. That's got to hurt, David Gergen. But money also, you know, helps you win the presidency, if history is a measure here. So is Elizabeth Warren's attack going to resonate?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it will resonate with the left-hand side of the Democratic Party, yes. But overall, Poppy, listen, Joe Biden is in a -- at the moment, is in a safe position. As long as he can go into any state and claim about 30 percent of the vote, and there are four other candidates -- there (ph) are four other Democrats who can get 10 to 20, there's nobody who can beat him.

The issue becomes, do the dynamics change? If Elizabeth Warren, you know, passes Bernie Sanders -- and he's been going down slightly and she's been rising --


GERGEN: -- if she were to make this a two-person race, that would be very different and very -- it could be very challenging for Joe Biden.

HARLOW: I also wonder what you make of this enthusiasm shift that we've seen. Look at this new NBC News --


HARLOW: -- "Wall Street Journal" poll. His enthusiasm numbers -- Biden's -- are down 10 points and hers are up six points. This is from March to June.

TEXT: Enthusiastic About 2020 Dem Candidates Among Dem Primary Voters: Biden: June, 23 percent; March, 33 percent. Warren: June, 26 percent; March,20 percent. Sanders: June, 22 percent; March, 28 percent.

HARLOW: And, you know, a lot has been said about the fact that people know Joe Biden. They know him well, they know him from his record in the Senate, from eight years as vice president. So he has a little less get-to-know-me room to grow, right?

GERGEN: That's a good point. I think that's right. He's -- because she has been so articulate with the set of ideas that she's been developing over the years. And she's -- you know, she's been in classrooms and knows how to make things fairly straightforward and easy to grasp.

That gives her an advantage. And she's getting some energy out of that. She's getting -- her troops are more energized than are Biden's. But Biden's are larger. He's got a bigger group, he's a safer candidate. You know, people think he can beat Trump. They're a little -- they're slightly less certain Elizabeth Warren can beat Trump. So this is -- we're getting to some interesting places in this race.

HARLOW: Yes, we are. And we've got how long to go? Many, many hundreds of days, still to go.

GERGEN: Oh my goodness.

HARLOW: David Gergen -- it's all right. It keeps us working every morning -- David Gergen, listen to how confident Joe Biden sounded last night, about his prospects in the South. Here he was.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'll plan on campaigning in the South. I plan -- and if I'm your nominee -- winning Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, believe it or not. And I believe we can win Texas and Florida, if you look at the polling data now.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HARLOW: Those are not only all states the president won -- he won Texas by nine points, South Carolina by 14 points -- but they're states that come with a whole lot of electoral votes. Put them all together, and you're talking about 107 electoral votes. How realistic is Biden's goal of winning all five?

GERGEN: I'm not surprised it's a goal. I was surprised he said it.


GERGEN: Because it does --


-- the -- one of the things to notice is, all those states basically are Southern states. And what's important, Poppy, about the -- about the early weeks and first month or two of the election is if you go up through Super Tuesday of 2020, it's -- basically the states that will have voted are going to be Sun Belt states, across the country.

HARLOW: Right.

GERGEN: And that does give Biden some reason to be more confident about doing better in those states than -- I don't know -- I assume he's claiming, that's what he's going to do in the general, not in the primary. He should do very well in the primaries in those -- in a lot of those Southern states.

[10:50:01] HARLOW: Yes. I think that's exactly what he's talking about. He didn't spell that out, but he has certainly been running -- don't you think, David Gergen -- like this is a general?

GERGEN: Yes. Yes, absolutely. And, you know, there are -- there are all these very preliminary numbers, as we know, that are internal numbers to the Trump campaign, which show Trump behind in a number of those states.

You know, so as -- Biden says (ph), "As of the moment" -- and we're going to be hearing that phrase a lot in the next few months -- as of the moment, Biden can -- has got a comfortable position on the Democratic side, and could win some of those Southern states. But we're in for a long campaign and the dynamics are going to be very fluid -- get very fluid, I think, sometime in the future.

HARLOW: OK. David Gergen, always a delight. Thank you for coming on.


HARLOW: Appreciate that.

GERGEN: Thank you. OK. It's good to see you, Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Well, Jon Stewart is now firing back at the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, in their ongoing fight over the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. That fund provides health care and services for 9/11 first responders. The current law expires next year, but the fund's administrator says it does not have enough money to pay out all the claims right now.

HARLOW: And you have probably seen Jon Stewart on Capitol Hill, because this went viral. It was last week, calling on members to act, to do something. On Monday, Mitch McConnell seemed to dismiss the urgency for this.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: Well, many things that Congress have (ph) at the last minute (ph) -- we've never failed to address this issue. And we will address it again. I don't know why he's all bent out of shape, but we will take care of the 9/11 Victims' Compensation Fund.


HARLOW: Maybe because they're our national heroes. Jim, Stewart responded just a few hours later on "Late Night with Stephen Colbert." Watch this.


JON STEWART, FORMER HOST, THE DAILY SHOW: Honestly, Mitch McConnell, you really want go with the "We'll get to it when we get to it" argument for the heroes of 9/11? Listen, Senator. I know that your species isn't known for moving quickly.


If you want to know why the 9/11 community is bent out of shape over these past -- let's call it 18 years, meet with them tomorrow, as soon as possible, and don't make them beg for it.


HARLOW: So last week, the House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to extend the 9/11 Fund. This is after Stewart testified in Washington and lambasted many members of Congress for not showing up for that hearing.

The question now becomes, what happens in the Senate and when, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Opening statements set to begin today in the murder trial of a Navy Seal that President Trump has publicly hinted at a pardon. What does that mean for this case?