Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson said Wednesday that centers like Las Vegas’ courtyard project make it “easy” for homeless people to access services in one place and can be effective in reducing unsheltered homelessness.
“For the most part, they have no idea about all these things that are available to them, where they should go, where the support is,” Carson said. “We need to make that easy for people. It’s hard enough for people who are sophisticated. And for people who haven’t had a lot of advantages in life, to be able to navigate that is very difficult.”
Carson visited a trio of homeless service providers Wednesday in Las Vegas, touring the new HELP of Southern Nevada Shannon West Homeless Youth Center, Veterans Village and the city’s homeless courtyard project a day after spending time on Los Angeles’ Skid Row, known for its widespread unsheltered homeless population.
“That leaves an indelible impression,” Carson said. “It’s so important we particularly focus on the young people and not let them go down that road.”
Fuilala Riley, president and CEO of HELP of Southern Nevada, showed Carson around the Shannon West center, which the nonprofit moved to last summer. Carson narrowly won a game of pool in the center’s multi-purpose room during the tour.
Carson listened to center resident and Henderson native Daniel Sandoval-Collins’ story of getting married at 17, being emancipated and winding up homeless. He initially resisted going to a homeless shelter, but he grew tired of feeling like he was a burden to the people he was staying with.
“I left my friends’ house in the middle of the night, hopped on a bus and was riding up and down Eastern (Avenue),” Sandoval-Collins said.
Carson asked HELP of Southern Nevada staff what HUD can do to help their efforts, “aside from giving you more money.”
Training the focus on homeless prevention is key, said HELP chief social services officer Kelly Robson.
“Concentration has shifted away from prevention to rapid rehousing. But we really need to look at prevention again,” Robson said. “What about those who will hit the streets if we can’t prevent it? How do we get it so these kids never hit our homeless system? What pots of money can we use?”
HUD is studying data from thousands of organizations across the country to determine whether they have been effective in curbing homelessness and “moving people to the right spot,” Carson said.
“We very much believe the housing-first proposition. But we also believe in housing second and housing third,” he said. “Housing first is you get them off the street. Housing second is you diagnose the reason they were on the street, and housing third is you fix it.”
Carson also spoke Wednesday at the Manufactured Housing Institute National Congress and Expo in Las Vegas, the same day he announced a proposal to raise rent for the millions of Americans who live in federally subsidized public housing, drawing the ire of tenant rights advocates across the country.
Carson plan would raise rent for millions in public housing
WASHINGTON — Millions of families living in federally subsidized public housing would pay more for rent under a proposal unveiled Wednesday by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson.
Dubbed the Make Affordable Housing Work Act, the plan would raise the rent paid by public housing residents to 35 percent from 30 percent of household income and eliminate all deductions that could lower that number. These rents would now be evaluated every three years instead of annually. Elderly and disabled tenants, who constitute more than half of the 4.7 million public housing families, would be exempted.
The proposal would have to be approved by Congress.
Carson said the changes are necessary to bring more money into the system and revamp an antiquated model.
“The way we calculate the level of assistance to our families is archaic and has perverse consequences, like discouraging these residents from earning more income,” Carson said in an interview with The Associated Press. “It’s clear from a budget perspective and from a human standpoint that this is not sustainable.”
— Associated Press