Donald Trump’s new, controversial homelessness czar has argued feeding homeless people enables themJuly 31, 2020 0 By DAVIS RICH
Donald Trump’s new, controversial homelessness czar has argued feeding homeless people enables them
Robert Marbut Jr. helped develop the Haven for Hope homeless shelter in San Antonio, which Gov. Greg Abbott praised as “probably the best template” for addressing homelessness. But aspects of Marbut’s approach have been criticized as harsh and patronizing.
BY DAVIS RICH
A Texas consultant who devised a controversial approach to addressing homelessness in San Antonio a decade ago was tapped by President Donald Trump this month to bring his strategy to the rest of the country.
Robert Marbut Jr., the founding president of San Antonio’s homeless shelter Haven for Hope, will lead the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, which coordinates with 19 federal departments and agencies to address homelessness.
But aspects of Marbut’s approach to addressing homelessness have garnered blowback from housing advocates. He calls feeding homeless people on the street “enabling” them, and once while working in Florida, he went undercover as a homeless person to study them.
Responding in a tweet to the news of his appointment, Diane Yentel, CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, called Marbut’s guiding principles “paternalistic, patronizing, filled with poverty blaming/shaming.”
Gov. Greg Abbott, who has sparred with Austin leaders he accuses of being too relaxed on policies governing homeless people, didn’t respond to a request for comment. But he previously lauded the San Antonio shelter developed by Marbut, calling it “probably the best template” for addressing homelessness.
“I’m pretty controversial, because I often say, ‘Having a home is not the problem for the homeless. It’s maintaining a financial stability that allows you to maintain your homestead,” Marbut told Next City in 2015.
The Texas Tribune could not reach Marbut for comment.
From 2006 to 2010, Marbut oversaw the development of the 22-acre Haven for Hope shelter that provides services to approximately 1,700 people per day. The shelter has been credited for centralizing homelessness services.