Robert Marbut left his position as executive director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) on February 16. Mr. Marbut’s tenure at USICH was defined by his rejection of evidence-based best practices and endorsement of dehumanizing and ineffective methods for addressing homelessness.
Mr. Marbut rejected “Housing First,” a proven strategy that prioritizes finding safe, stable, accessible housing for people experiencing homelessness before addressing other problems, like substance abuse or untreated mental health issues. The efficacy of the Housing First model is supported by two decades of research and has been identified by USICH as a best practice for ending homelessness.
Instead, Mr. Marbut described his approach to combating homelessness as “Housing Fourth,” calling for large-scale shelters with treatment facilities where people experiencing homelessness “earn” their right to beds within the shelters. In his previous role as a homelessness consultant to cities, he called for cities to stop “enabling” homelessness by providing free meals, which he called “street feeding,” and allowing people to sleep in public spaces. He also endorsed expanding law enforcement’s authority to arrest people experiencing homelessness for violating minor ordinances.
In addition to drawing criticism from NLIHC and other homelessness advocates, Mr. Marbut’s appointment was met with disapproval from members of Congress. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) released a press statement noting that “it is a problem that the Trump Administration’s designee to head the Interagency Council on Homelessness may believe that it’s more important to stop churches from providing food to homeless people than it is to find those people homes.” House Democrats sent a letter to the former administration outlining their disappointment with Marbut’s appointment (see Memo, 12/16/19). NLIHC strongly rebuked Mr. Marbut’s appointment, worked with our national partners to push back on his ineffective and dehumanizing policies, and urged the Biden administration to remove Mr. Marbut from his position.