Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson recently called veteran Democratic California Congresswoman Maxine Waters a hypocrite lacking “basic manners” in a testy exchange about America’s homelessness crisis.
“My mother always taught me that people shouldn’t throw rocks, especially while they live in a glass house,” Carson wrote, in a copy of a letter to Waters on the issue cited by POLITICO. “Because of that wise lesson, I was a little surprised to read your hostile letter to President Trump regarding the record number of homeless Americans in California, particularly in your district.”
“Your shamelessness knows no bounds. From day one of your presidency, you have attacked our democracy and now you have set your ire on the 550,000 Americans who on any given night experience homelessness. Given this deplorable track record, I demand that you provide additional information on your Administration's recent report, ‘The State of Homelessness in America,’ and your reported plans to unilaterally demolish homeless tent camps and relocate homeless individuals to federally-owned facilities,” Waters began in her missive. “As you know, homelessness in this country has reached crisis proportions and this effort would be one of the numerous cruel, unlawful, and unpatriotic actions you have taken during what will hopefully be a short-lived presidency.”
The Trump administration's report called homelessness a “serious problem” in America “due to decades of misguided and faulty policies.”
“Over half a million people go homeless on a single night in the United States. Approximately 65 percent are found in homeless shelters, and the other 35 percent—just under 200,000—are found unsheltered on our streets (in places not intended for human habitation, such as sidewalks, parks, cars, or abandoned buildings),” the report explained in an executive summary.
It pointed out how homelessness is concentrated in major cities on the West Coast and the Northeast like Boston, New York City, and Washington, D.C. Nearly half, 47 percent, of unsheltered homeless people were also found in California alone.
The report noted that the major causes of the variation for homelessness across communities are: the higher price of housing resulting from overregulation of housing markets; the conditions for sleeping on the street (outside of shelter or housing); the supply of homeless shelters; and the characteristics of individuals in a community that make homelessness more likely.
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The report also noted that the Trump administration would seek to address these problems through an executive order signed by President Trump this summer to remove regulatory barriers in the housing market.
“The administration has also consistently supported the police in promoting safe cities. Finally, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has improved Federal homeless assistance programs by providing flexibility for communities to utilize service participation requirements and more strongly encouraging self-sufficiency. These reforms may more successfully reduce homelessness and address the underlying problems that people experiencing homelessness face,” it added.
Waters contended in her letter to the president, however, that his homelessness policy provided an “oversimplified and misleading narrative of why homelessness exists in this country and the policies that may be successful” in reducing the problem.
“For example, the report ignores years of sound research on the efficacy of the Housing First approach in favor of supporting ‘service participation requirements’ that have been proven to act as barriers to not just housing, but also employment, sobriety, higher education, and any number of positive life outcomes,” Waters argued.
“The report also draws erroneous conclusions about the impact of local ‘right to shelter’ policies, suggests that punitive policing tactics are effective in reducing unsheltered homelessness, inflates the impact of regulations on the cost of housing, and minimizes the critical importance of federal programs that invest in housing and supportive services for people experiencing homelessness,” she adds.
In responding to Waters, Carson said: “Shamelessness is a career politician of 30 years laying blame ... Shamelessness is allowing more than 55,000 Americans to live on the very streets they represent.”
He further noted that he requested meetings with Waters multiple times to discuss the issue but each time she refused.
“I have sent multiple letters to your office and requested numerous meetings, but each time you’ve refused,” Carson wrote. “Basic manners elude you and it seems that instead of producing results, you’re more interested in producing cheap headlines at the President’s expense — like a true career politician.”
Carson added: “To me, the most compassionate, obvious, and logical solution would be to get as many homeless Americans off the streets — with a roof over their heads — as soon as humanly possible.”