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Federal official calls on churches to ‘adopt’ homeless

LOS ANGELES — U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson spoke at a panel discussion on solutions to homelessness Feb. 13 at USC, and said the federal government will debut a new plan within weeks to assist homeless people.

Carson spoke at USC’s “Unhoused: Addressing Homelessness in California Summit,” hosted in partnership with the Schwarzenegger Institute, saying the government’s plan would be to ask churches and faith-based organizations throughout the country to “adopt” homeless people to get them off the street temporarily.

“Churches used to do what we do at HUD, and actually, they did a better job because they were able to develop real relationships with people,” Carson said. “We’re going to be calling upon every church, synagogue, mosque in American to adopt a homeless person or homeless family with the goal of making them self-sufficient. Can you imagine what the impact of that would be? Pretty much wipe out homelessness.”

Former state Sen. Kevin de Leon, a Democrat who is running for City Council in District 14, called the secretary’s approaches to homelessness “faith-based platitudes,” but said he would be open to working with the federal government on homelessness.

Carson said HUD recently announced more than $2 billion will be used to support local homelessness continuum of care organizations.

The speaking engagement was a stop on Carson’s “Driving Affordable Housing Across America Bus Tour.”

“Housing prices have risen to a level that there are those in the workforce who maintain a job but still cannot afford a place to call home,” Carson said. “Even in the midst of an economic renaissance, many of our nation’s teachers, nurses, police officers and firefighters struggle, or in some cases, simply cannot afford to live in or around the communities they serve. This is a trend we must bring to an end.”

City Councilman Herb Wesson said Los Angeles may have housed 14,000 people in the last few years, but homelessness continues to outpace the available affordable housing.

“There are resources that we need to spend to stop homelessness in the first place,” Wesson said. “It is cheaper to [use] grants, low-interest loans, no-interest loans, with a level of counseling that can stabilize people and keep them in their homes.”

Wesson said governments needs to stop punishing people who have substance addictions or mental health issues and to provide those individuals with help within 12 to 24 hours.

During the panel, one person shouted out, “Where’s the panel of [people] who have lived experience?” with homelessness.

Homelessness and housing were the main issues for likely California voters leading into the March 3 California Primary Election, according to a statewide poll conducted by USC.

The poll found most respondents put homelessness or housing as their top issue, 22.9%, followed by climate change, 14.8%, and immigration, 9.2%.

“For too many Californians, the Golden Dream by the sea is out of reach,” former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said. “Learning that one in three Californians worry that they or a family member could become homeless is astounding and illustrates just how critical this issue has become. We can do better.”

Independent Wire Services