Point of View: When the Cruelty is the Point – by Diane Yentel, NLIHC President and CEO

I’ve never before called policy proposals hateful, but Secretary Carson’s latest series of them are just that. He proposes policies designed to increase homelessness and suffering, and even the risk of violence or death, for some of our country’s most vulnerable people. The cruelty, it seems, is the point.

First came the proposal to evict “mixed-status” households from subsidized housing. These are immigrant families living with family members who are undocumented or otherwise ineligible for housing assistance. Subsidies for these families are strictly prorated to ensure the ineligible member of the household receives none of the subsidy. Each of these mixed-status families waited for months or years for housing assistance, just like every other family in public or other subsidized homes. And each of these families pays higher rents than families in which all household members are eligible.

Over 100,000 people are put at risk of eviction from Secretary Carson’s proposal; included among them are over 55,000 children, all deeply poor, eligible and in need of housing assistance. If Secretary Carson’s proposal were put into effect, these American children would be evicted and put at high risk of homelessness.

Then came Secretary Carson’s proposal to reverse protections for transgender people experiencing homelessness. One in every three transgender people will experience homelessness in their lifetime. Seventy percent of trans people who attempt to enter shelters face discrimination. Transgender people, especially trans women and trans people of color, are at extraordinarily high risk of violence.

Secretary Carson proposes allowing federally funded shelters to discriminate against trans people seeking shelter. Some evangelical Christian shelter providers have sought and sued for the right to turn away transgender people in their moment of greatest need; Secretary Carson would now give them free reign to use tax-payer dollars to do just that. Turning transgender people away from shelter and forcing them to instead sleep on the street puts them at high risk of violence and even death.

And fifteen months after Congress approved $16 billion in disaster mitigation funds for areas devastated by 2017 hurricanes, Secretary Carson has yet to provide those resources to impacted communities to allow them to rebuild stronger to withstand the next storm. Secretary Carson is slow-walking the provision of funding to where it is most needed, as President Trump repeatedly lies about recovery efforts in Puerto Rico and prevents more money from going to the island. Through some combination of ignorance and racism, President Trump won’t acknowledge that Puerto Ricans are Americans.

Thirty-three thousand deeply poor Puerto Rican families still sleep in homes that had roofs  blown off by Hurricane Maria and never replaced, and the next hurricane season rapidly approaches. Each day of Secretary Carson’s inexcusable inaction in getting money to Puerto Rico puts American lives at risk.

Through these actions and more, Secretary Carson has chosen to use his power and position at HUD to advance policies to increase homelessness for some of the most vulnerable people in our country, and to extend and exacerbate the suffering of the lowest-income and most vulnerable people impacted by disasters. To advance such policies, he lies about both his intentions and the policies’ impacts.

So how do we fight cruelty that is advanced and perpetuated with lies? With truth and compassion.

Hundreds of dedicated HUD career employees are leading the way. With their brave and good work, HUD officials publicly exposed Secretary Carson’s lies and his true intentions in advancing the mixed-status rule. This extraordinary rebuke follows dozens of less public but no less powerful internal efforts to push back against some of Secretary Carson’s and the White House’s more harmful proposals. Each of these acts of resistance is brave, patriotic and needed to combat the cruelty.

Public housing authority (PHA) directors and other city and state officials are speaking out as well. The Houston Housing Authority (HHA) responded to Secretary Carson’s feigned concern with the hundreds of thousands of families on HHA’s waiting list by noting that “less than 1% of HHA households have undocumented family members living with them…and they do not take up spots on the waiting list.” HHA further stated: “HHA does not act as an extension of immigration enforcement.” Earlier this month, Doug Guthrie, president and CEO of the Housing Authority of the City of LA, told his members of Congress that the proposed rule, “poses a devastating threat to the housing status of our most vulnerable residents and their families…The net effect of the proposed rule is to throw 11,000 of our neediest residents out of their homes and, more than likely, onto the street.” He notes that the proposed rule runs counter to HUD’s mission by “inflicting fear, stress and harm on our most vulnerable populations. The rule changes are unnecessary, untimely and mean-spirited.” He urges that the rule be withdrawn. I hope many more PHAs and public officials follow suit in countering the lies and opposing the cruelty.

This week’s Our Homes, Our Voices National Housing Week of Action is an ideal opportunity for you to plan or attend an event to raise your voice in opposition to these cruel proposals and in support of true solutions to America’s housing crisis. For example, the Arizona Housing Coalition is holding an Our Homes, Our Voices press event and postcard writing campaign for members to register opposition to the proposed mixed-status rule. Our Homes, Our Voices Week of Action begins on Thursday, with over 70 events so far planned throughout the country.

Join these events, plan your own, go to www.keep-families-together.org for more information on opposing the mixed-status rule, and stay tuned to NLIHC for more ways to oppose all of these and the next harmful proposals from Secretary Carson. And keep speaking out, using whatever outlets you have: publish opinion pieces and submit letters to the editor; talk to the media about local impacts; call and meet with your members of Congress; expose the lies and tell the truth whenever and wherever you can.

How do we fight this administration’s cruelty and deception? We combat the lies with truth. We counter the ignorance with facts. We call out and refute racism and homophobia. We partner with and amplify the leadership of impacted people. We speak up and speak out and - in the end - we will prevail. Because love trumps hate.

In solidarity,