During his confirmation hearing, Ben Carson committed a cringeworthy gaffe stating, “It will not be my intention to do anything that will benefit any American.” But after his visit to living accommodations for low-income people in Ohio, it seems the wording may not have been a blunder after all.
The head of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) was pleased to see that some residents were living in less-than-comfortable government-funded shelters. While touring the facilities, Carson criticized a relatively well-kept apartment complex for veterans, sarcastically stating it needed “only pool tables” to complete the look. At one place he also asked whether residents were allowed to keep pets in the apartment. However, when he arrived at a homeless shelter, he reportedly appeared quite happy to learn employees stacked bunks beds and intentionally do not provide the residents with television.
Carson told the New York Times compassion means not affording people “a comfortable setting that would make somebody want to say: ‘I’ll just stay here. They will take care of me.’”
A resident, 87-year-old Alzene Munnerlyn, living in senior housing, complained she felt “used” after Carson inspected her home, took pictures and quickly left without listening to any of her housing concerns.
“It was staged. It was so fast,” she said.
Before President Donald Trump appointed Carson to lead HUD, the neurosurgeon had no government or political experience and no desire to run a major federal department. However, during his failed campaign as a Republican presidential candidate, Carson has voiced hard-line views on poverty alleviation, including his belief that too much government assistance leads to unhealthy dependence.
“We have some people who are mentally ill. We have some elderly and disabled people. We can’t expect in many cases those people to do a great deal to take care of themselves,” he said. “There is another group of people who are able-bodied individuals, and I think we do those people a great disservice when we simply maintain them.”
However, research has indicated that providing housing is a feasible option to reducing homelessness. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) also claims that public housing can provide access to communities to better schools and job opportunities while reducing homelessness and the cost associated with sheltering senior citizens and people with disabilities.
Carson also expressed wariness towards recovering addicts and implied they should be clean before they are granted government-funded living accommodations. After Trisha Farmer, the chief executive of the Recovery Center, the head of a housing center for recovering drug abusers asked for increased federal help, Carson told her the government will only be “incentivizing those who help themselves.” That probably means Farmer will not be getting any additional funding in the near future.
Carson may be setting a dangerous precedent with this approach. About 2.2 million families depend on housing assistance from HUD. Pathways to Housing DC, a non-profit working on homelessness issues in Washington, D.C., claims that prioritizes finding permanent housing for individuals before seeking recovery and rehabilitation leads to 89 percent housing retention rate and insists the long-term cost to the wider community is very much reduced if housing is approved without preconditions.
A 2006 cost benefit analysis of the Denver Housing First Collaborative found providing shelter reduced emergency room visits by 34.3 percent, detox visits by 82 percent and incarceration days and costs by 76 percent.
However all of this does not seem to matter to Carson — or Trump for that matter.
Trump’s proposed budget would slash HUD funding by more than $6 billion and will eliminate a block grant program responsible for providing assistance to many community organizations, including Meals on Wheels.
The president has proposed cutting $3.3 billion off a program that helps poor people heat their homes — and this effort would only save 0.2 percent of discretionary spending.
Ben Carson is just as dangerous as Trump. He's incompetent, uninformed and believes in the same racist rhetoric as the rest of the GOP.— Rod (@rodimusprime) May 4, 2017
I swear Ben Carson must have used someone else to get his medical degree. Carson is either crazy or stupid.— Pink Freud (@alaskarebel) May 3, 2017