President Donald Trump recently traveled to California to attend fundraising events and to visit a section of the new border wall under construction, and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Dr. Ben Carson was visiting the state at the same time, though his trip was focused on addressing the homelessness crisis that has taken hold there.
In an interview on Fox News on Monday, the surgeon-turned-Cabinet-secretary shared his thoughts on how the government — at the federal, state, and local levels — could best address the homelessness “epidemic” in California that threatens to explode into a full-blown health crisis.
State, local government must act
Asked about the situation he had witnessed among the homeless during his visit, Carson replied, “Well, the need is overwhelming, and in a country like ours which has so many resources and so much wealth it really is abominable, particularly when you walk amongst the people there on the street and you look into their faces.”
“You realize a lot of these people have mental health issues, a lot of them have drug addictions, some of them simply have fallen on hard times and don’t know how to deal with it,” he continued. “But as a compassionate society, it is something that we have to do something about, we can’t just talk about it.”
“Should it be the responsibility of the federal government? No,” Carson added. “These are local problems and the things that work best are when the local authorities take appropriate attention to these problems, and then the federal government can help them, the state goverment can help them. That’s what has to be done and that is what is done in places that are working successfully.”
Crafting long-term solutions
Guest host Harris Faulkner, in light of Carson’s history as a doctor, shifted focus to the potential health crisis among homeless populations and asked what the president’s “next steps” would be to address the issue.
“Actually, the president is extremely concerned about this because of the epidemic that could occur,” Carson replied. “And so we’re looking at both short-term and long-term” solutions to the problem.
Carson suggested that homeless people needed to be removed from their current situation and be resituated in a “clean” place. He further suggested that once that short-term solution had been shown to be effective, others who had initially been reluctant to accept an offer of a clean place to stay would be further inclined to give it a try instead of remaining on the streets.
“Then the second step is, you know, we have to find a more permanent solution for them,” he continued. “There are some public buildings in the area that can be repurposed for housing. But in the process of doing that, we’re also looking at wraparound services so that we can get these people out of dependency.”
Local initiative required
Faulker pointed out the homelessness issue wasn’t confined solely to California and noted that it was a growing issue in a number of other states and cities across the country. She asked if the federal government would need to get involved in lending a helping hand to all of those other cities as well.
Carson expressed his hope that rather than ask the federal government for help, those other cities would look at different places around the country where homelessness wasn’t a huge problem and then emulate the “best practices” of those locales to try and handle the problem on their own.
“But, you know, this is an emergency situation and that is why the federal government is gonna have to step in if the local government doesn’t do anything,” Carson said. “Are we willing to work with them? Absolutely. Are they anxious to work with us? It doesn’t seem so, but the door is quite open.”