In an interview with the New York Times, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson explained his thoughts on how “too much government assistance has led to too much dependence” and advocated for less comfortable public housing in an effort to encourage people who are reliant on government assistance to find other ways of supporting themselves.
“We have some people who are mentally ill. We have some elderly and disabled people. We can’t expect in many cases those people to do a great deal to take care of themselves,” he said before adding, “There is another group of people who are able-bodied individuals, and I think we do those people a great disservice when we simply maintain them.”
Instead, Carson views compassion as not giving people “a comfortable setting that would make somebody want to say: ‘I’ll just stay here. They will take care of me.'”
A few months into his new position, the HUD secretary has been traveling the country to check out public housing facilities, joking that a complex for veterans in Ohio lacked “only pool tables” and nodding enthusiastically when officials at a homeless shelter explained that they fit dozens of bunk beds inside and purposefully neglected to include TVs.
“We are talking about incentivizing those who help themselves,” he responded when the chief executive of a housing center for drug addicts asked for more federal help to house recovering addicts.
Carson received some backlash on social media from users who found his approach to public housing a bit cold.
However, Bryanna Ramirez, a 24-year-old single mother whom Carson visited, thought his approach wasn’t too harsh. She currently lives in a housing facility specifically for working low-income parents and is in the process of earning an associates degree. She uses a Section 8 voucher to pay for a two-bedroom apartment for herself and her two daughters, ages 2 and 6.
“The best thing to do is to do what Ben Carson is doing and that’s walking through to see if programs are really benefiting people and if people are really serious,” she said. “I think you should be in school or working to try to be on your own, because that’s what America is about.”