Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson scolded California’s leadership for putting politics ahead of people when it comes to solving the state’s crisis of homelessness.
During a Thursday appearance on Fox News’ “The Story,” Carson upbraided Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and other officials in the state for a lack of urgency in forming the kinds of partnerships that could address the epidemic of homelessness there and for blaming Washington and the Trump administration’s policies.
“My message is, ‘Let’s put the people first, let’s not worry about other peripheral issues,’” Carson said. “These are our fellow human beings, and it’s Christmastime.
“Think about what the Bible says. In the book of Proverbs, the 14th chapter, the 31st verse, says, ‘He that oppresses the poor reproacheth his Maker, but he that honoureth him has mercy on the poor.’ Let’s think about some mercy on the poor. Let’s think about real compassion. Let’s not think about ways that we can keep people dependent and in these horrible situations, but how can we liberate them?”
Carson said addressing homelessness is not as simple as giving the state more HUD vouchers for housing, further draining a pool of money that cannot grow endlessly, but requires addressing the root cause of homelessness.
“First of all, you have a significant number of people with disturbances in their mental capacity. We have drug addiction, and we have people who simply cannot afford to live in a place where you have so many regulations that drive up the cost of everything,” he said.
Washington, D.C., “recently was given a waiver by HHS so they could use Medicaid dollars for mental illness. California could apply for that same waiver,” Carson said.
“Those are the kind of things that have to be done,” he said, “and they have to be done with the federal, state, local, as well as faith-based, the for-profit, the not-for-profits — we need to work together to get this done. It can be done, absolutely.”
Have California’s liberal policies made the problem of homelessness worse?
Carson noted that because of California’s approach, its trend line on solving homelessness is heading the other way from the rest of the nation.
“It’s truly amazing,” he said. “We’ve actually been making very good progress over the course of the last decade, in terms of homelessness, except in California.”
Carson earlier this month unveiled data showing that nationally, homelessness rose 2.7 percent, but that in California, it rose 16.4 percent, according to Fox Business.
“As we look across our nation, we see great progress, but we’re also seeing a continued increase in street homelessness along our West Coast where the cost of housing is extremely high,” Carson said in a statement.
“In fact, homelessness in California is at a crisis level and needs to be addressed by local and state leaders with crisis-like urgency,” he said. “Addressing these challenges will require a broader, community-wide response that engages every level of government to compassionately house our fellow citizens who call the streets their home.”
“That means taking people off the street and putting them in a location that is safe, but also a location in which we can provide some of the wraparound services because [it’s] not just a matter of getting them off the street,” Carson said. “It’s a matter of figuring out why you’re on the street in the first place.”
President Donald Trump tweeted Thursday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, should work on the homelessness epidemic in the state she represents.