(December 4, 2019, Washington, DC)—Yesterday, it was announced that Robert Marbut would be named as the Executive Director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), a position recently left open by the ousting of Matthew Doherty. The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty looks forward to continuing to work with this esteemed group under new leadership, and we also hope to see the organization continue its bipartisan, solutions-focused work to end homelessness in the United States.
We are concerned, however, that Doherty’s forced resignation and that Marbut’s appointment is related to recent White House rhetoric that dehumanizes and degrades people experiencing homelessness and that calls for “sweeps” of homeless encampments. Marbut has previously worked as a private consultant whose work with cities has been grounded in a so-called “velvet hammer” approach that forces homeless persons into “campuses” (including one housed in a former jail) under threat of arrest.
As documented in our Welcome Home report on the growth of homeless encampments, at these campuses, homeless persons must first sleep outside on mats and only “graduate” to indoor beds as they complete programs. This approach is consistent with the Administration’s misguided recent rhetoric that people experiencing homelessness are too comfortable on the street and need to be forced into shelters—which are often non-existent or not appropriate for their needs.
The Law Center will continue to push for a housing-first approach to solve the homelessness crisis and against any approach that criminalizes homelessness—approaches consistent with the Federal Plan to End Homelessness facilitated by USICH. We look forward to working with USICH and our many partners to advocate and fight for tested solutions to end homelessness, as we have done for the past thirty years.
The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (the Law Center) is the only national organization dedicated solely to using the power of the law to prevent and end homelessness. With the support of a large network of pro bono lawyers, we address the immediate and long-term needs of people who are homeless or at risk through outreach and training, advocacy, impact litigation, and public education.