Connecting state and local government leaders

Portland Mayor Hits Back at Carson’s Comments on Homelessness in West Coast Cities

Portland, Oregon Mayor Ted Wheeler

Portland, Oregon Mayor Ted Wheeler Don Ryan / AP File Photo


Connecting state and local government leaders

Ted Wheeler says that if the HUD secretary thinks government should take a passive role, he “should step aside and allow someone up to the task to lead.”

Ted Wheeler, the mayor of Portland, Oregon, is not happy with comments Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson made this week saying that local leaders in cities struggling with homelessness, especially those on the West Coast, shouldn’t expect government to provide all the solutions.

"We just need to move a little bit away from the concept that only the government can solve this problem by throwing more money at it," Carson said, according to National Public Radio.

That touched a nerve with Wheeler, who took to Twitter to respond. The mayor said that while addressing homelessness requires a cross-sector approach and involvement of multiple stakeholders, government can’t take a passive role in finding solutions. That includes the department Carson oversees.

Instead, Wheeler noted, the Trump administration has made it more difficult for cities to pursue meaningful ways to address the difficult problems associated with homelessness.

Carson’s comments were made during a conference call with reporters where new statistics about homelessness in states and metropolitan areas, which show increases in the number of unsheltered individuals in many jurisdictions.

As Route Fifty reported Wednesday, HUD officials declined to comment on federal budget proposals that would cut funding for Carson’s department, something that has caused great concern among housing advocates and others who work on homelessness policy.

Wheeler’s string of tweets noted that despite the ongoing intergovernmental struggles on homelessness, his city is “still stepping up,” including a newly approved project that includes 203 multi-family units that includes permanent supportive housing and Veteran Affairs Supportive Housing.

Wheeler concluded his Twitter thread saying that if Carson thinks government can’t provide solutions, he’s in the wrong line of work.

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.

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