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HUD’s Dr. Ben Carson on how COVID has exposed failed homeless plans

HUD Secretary Ben Carson. (AP)

With the intersection of homelessness and concerns over coronavirus, has this perhaps highlighted some of the problems when there are individuals who are living out on the streets instead of in a system where we could help them? Dr. Ben Carson is Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and joined the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH to discuss.

“Absolutely. … If we don’t do something about this homeless situation, we’re going to come upon a time when we’re going to have an epidemic and it will spread quite easily amongst the homeless individuals, and that will have implications for the society at large. I don’t want it to be done just because we have this virus going on. We need to be thinking about how do we do it on a permanent basis,” he said.

Surviving as a restaurant when you opened right before coronavirus

“Through the CARES Act, a significant amount of funding has been provided. So taking people, putting them in certain places. We have federal lands, we have state lands, we have local lands. We can build these structures for relatively little money and provide them with a safe place, get medical care, and more importantly, we can look at their drug addiction and mental illnesses … and begin to look at some of the wraparound services that will help people get back on their feet.”

Dr. Carson said the way we’ve been doing things for years can sometimes create more and more dependent people, and soon enough the system won’t be able to handle it. The issue is sometimes getting past political blow back and dealing with what actually works. Has the political aspect died down a little in the response to homelessness?

“I’m thinking that it probably has. It’s a good thing. Sometimes you’ve got to slap people in the face with a cold fish before they wake up, and maybe that’s what’s happening here.”

On a potential rent moratorium

As Jason noted, many activists in Seattle and across the country have called for a rent or mortgage moratorium, because the government is essentially telling people that they can’t go to work in certain industries. What’s Dr. Carson’s take on that kind of moratorium?

“We have to be careful, obviously, because there’s a domino effect. If you don’t pay your rent, then the landlord is not able to pay their obligations to lenders, and it goes on and on and on until everybody gets involved here,” he said.

How will the release of prisoners due to coronavirus impact public safety?

“The key thing is to recognize that this is a temporary situation. This is going to pass. This does not define the rest of life in America, and so we have to be able to utilize solutions that don’t destroy the economic infrastructure that has allowed us to flourish economically for the last few years.”

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3 – 6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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