The Trump administration announced controversial homelessness consultant Robert Marbut as the new director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness last week.
Marbut will oversee 19 federal agencies and departments linked to homelessness and be the primary liaison between federal, state and municipal governments attempting to end homelessness through policy. The Council’s goals include ending homelessness in America “once and for all.”
A homelessness containment expert based in San Antonio, Texas, Marbut previously traveled throughout the nation advising cities on how to best curb homelessness.
For each city he worked with, Marbut developed a customized plan to end homelessness. His plans regularly cracked down on public food distribution and restricted access to public restrooms and other amenities he said “enable” homelessness.
Critics of Marbut’s appointment say his leadership could jeopardize work nearly two decades in the making. In the early 2000s, the Bush administration developed a “Housing First” homelessness tactic, prioritizing the creation of housing for unsheltered people before all else.
To Marbut, increased housing will not deter homelessness. He promotes reward-and-punishment methods rewarding good behavior with access to goods and services, including large-scale “transformational campuses” of shelter and treatment.
“I believe in Housing Fourth,” Marbut told a news outlet in 2014.
Trump visited California in September, after which he chastised homelessness on the West Coast.
Marbut succeeds Matthew Doherty, an Obama appointee removed by the Trump administration in November, who has since been named an adviser for California.
Marbut’s appointment will be finalized at the federal council’s Dec. 10 meeting.
Immigration enforcement sightings at King County churches
Two faith-based emergency shelters in King County reported sightings of immigration enforcement officers in November, according to the Washington Immigration Solidarity Network (WAISN).
On Nov. 23, a social worker at the Redmond United Methodist Church reported seeing a marked U.S. Customs and Border Protection vehicle parked across the street from the family shelter.
A woman, previously seen talking to people inside the vehicle, entered the shelter and began to ask questions about the facility and a specific family taking refuge in the shelter. The same woman was reportedly seen at the New Bethlehem Day Center in Kirkland the next day.
Since the reports came in, WAISN has been in communication with stakeholders throughout the county to develop a better understanding of the events that took place. U.S. Border Patrol and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have denied any involvement in the incidents. WAISN is still awaiting a response from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
In a sanctuary state where local law enforcement is barred from asking about immigration status and from complying with “immigration holds” requested by federal authorities, some people fear the presence of immigration enforcement authorities may deter families from seeking shelter and access to much-needed services.
The immigration enforcement officer’s tactics to enter the Redmond shelter compromise the safety of places of worship and unjustly threaten undocumented citizens and those still in the immigration process, WAISN representatives said.
“We object to any presence of immigration-enforcement at ‘sensitive locations,’ in the strongest possible terms, and will hold agencies and elected officials accountable to ensure transparency, accountability and justice,” according to a statement from WAISN, Redmond United Methodist Church, Church Council of Greater Seattle, Muslim Association of Puget Sound – American Muslim Empowerment Network and Centro Cultural Mexicano.
WAISN leaders said they will continue to investigate the two incidents and reaffirmed their commitment to protecting the well-being of all those who enter emergency shelters.
Read the full Dec. 11 - 17 issue.
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