Democratic California Congresswoman Maxine Waters called Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson a “duck out of water” and a “complete failure at HUD” Tuesday after he dismissed her as a hypocrite lacking “basic manners” in an escalating war of words over America’s homelessness crisis.
The congresswoman’s response comes after Carson called her out in a letter Monday for failing to make time to meet with his office to discuss her concerns, yet criticized a recent report released by the Trump administration called The State of Homelessness in America that seeks to address the problem of more than half a million Americans who have no place to sleep on any given night.
“Most recently, it was reported that he (Carson) and this disgraceful President want to raze homeless camps, round up persons experiencing homelessness and force them to live in unused and unsuitable federal buildings," Waters said in a statement to The Hill on the dispute Tuesday.
"All of this demonstrates his lack of competence as HUD secretary and the cruelty of this Administration. Instead of whining about his inability to get on my schedule, he should take some time to focus on the over half a million people experiencing homelessness in this country,” Waters added.
The Trump administration's report called homelessness a “serious problem” in America “due to decades of misguided and faulty policies.”
It also 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., with nearly half, 47 percent, of unsheltered homeless people found in California alone.
Major causes for the variation for homelessness across communities were also noted in the report as: 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.
The report also noted that the Trump administration would seek to address these problems through an executive order signed by President Trump last June to remove regulatory barriers in the housing market.
The congresswoman triggered Carson’s withering letter on Monday after she characterized the Trump administration’s response to homelessness in an Oct. 28 letter to President Donald Trump, as an “oversimplified and misleading narrative of why homelessness exists in this country.”
“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.”
Waters further raised concern that the Trump administration was pushing vulnerable groups out of housing while only giving the appearance of solving the problem.
“To date, your Administration has taken several steps that would increase homelessness in this country, including: proposing to defund key HUD programs, proposing to impose steep rent increases on the lowest income HUD tenants, seeking to evict mixed-status immigrant families living in subsidized housing, increasing the barriers to emergency shelter for LGBTQ individuals experiencing homelessness, and weakening fair housing protections,” she argued.
“Your Administration also has implemented cruel and inhumane child separation and detention practices as part of its immigration policies. In light of this record, I am concerned that these newly reported efforts around homelessness are an effort to reduce the appearance rather than the rate of homelessness at the expense of the human and civil rights of people experiencing homelessness,” she continued.
In his Monday letter however, Carson accused Waters of playing politics while lacking “basic manners.”
“My mother always taught me that people shouldn’t throw rocks, especially while they live in a glass house,” Carson wrote. “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.
“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,” Carson said.
“As the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, solving the homelessness crisis is a top priority for myself, for President Trump, and for his Administration. To that end, I have sent multiple letters to your office and requested numerous meetings, but each time you’ve refused. 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. Unfortunately, those homeless men and women don’t have that same luxury,” Carson continued.
He then urged Waters once again to put aside politics and work with his office to solve the crisis.
“I think we can both agree that our nation’s homeless men and women have seen enough devastation. We must focus less on politically driven words and more on effective solutions – like healing those struggling with mental health and substance abuse addictions – which would create opportunities to empower individuals to rise to self-sufficiency and live with dignity,” Carson said.
“I would love to work with you, in a bipartisan fashion, to solve this crisis. It may not be popular with the political elites, but working to give people a hand up, instead of a hand-out will actually have meaning and not just be the typical response of a career politicians in Washington,” he noted.