Controversial new federal homeless czar was a participant within the shake-up of Utah’s method to getting folks off the streets

Robert Marbut’s backers regionally see him as a “good, good man” who has improved the lives of tens of millions of individuals throughout a profession dedicated to addressing homelessness “in a method that seeks to alleviate reasonably than perpetuate” the group’s struggles, because the coalition put it in a e-newsletter final month.

However a number of homeless service suppliers within the state see Marbut in a different way. And so they fear he’ll use his newfound affect throughout the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness to push a dangerous agenda rooted in a few of his extra controversial concepts.

“He’s made plenty of inflammatory statements, like that church buildings and others shouldn’t be allowed to feed poor people in public, for instance,” stated Glenn Bailey, government director of the Crossroads City Middle. “And his philosophy on homelessness appears to be to form of incarcerate people in giant campus settings which can be away from everybody else within the metropolis and isolate folks, which I additionally don’t actually suppose is the suitable response.”

Maybe most alarmingly, Bailey stated, is Marbut’s opposition to the “housing first” model for addressing homelessness that’s embraced in Salt Lake City and several other different municipalities, during which service suppliers prioritize placing a roof over folks’s heads earlier than serving to them handle different issues they could be dealing with, like psychological well being and habit.

“Housing first is the one factor I’ve ever truly seen that actually works,” Bailey stated.

Marbut first entered the homelessness area as a volunteer in church youth group and deepened his work on the problem later throughout a four-year stint on the San Antonio Metropolis Council in Texas. After that, he started touring the nation as a guide in cities seeking to sort out homelessness.

In a current telephone interview, he informed The Salt Lake Tribune that his views have been misconstrued and are rooted in knowledge and a need to get folks into “transformational” providers that may assist them transfer off the streets for good.

(Rick Egan | Tribune file picture) A homeless man strikes his belongings close to the Salt Lake Metropolis Library, Monday, Dec. 23, 2019.
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That’s why Marbut stated he doesn’t imagine in offering meals and clothes wherever however in shelters, arguing that these providers can allow folks and preserve them from accessing devoted case administration.

“I’ve by no means stated, ‘Don’t feed ever, ever, ever,’” Marbut stated. “What I say is take your feeding providers and alter the situation and put it with psychological well being and behavioral well being and medical and dental and the job coaching and the schooling and work collectively as a collective.”

On the subject of “housing first,” Marbut agrees the method can work for particular teams, like ladies and veterans, however doesn’t imagine it serves all folks experiencing homelessness equally.

“When someone says, ‘I’ve one antibiotic and I’m going to deal with a coronary heart assault, most cancers and pneumonia with one remedy,’ that simply doesn’t make sense,” he stated. “And housing first really is the equal. I imply, it truly is. In case you simply give attention to a roof solely and don’t give attention to the remedy and restoration that misplaced you a home within the first place, it’s not even a metaphor. It’s nearly precisely the identical.”

Marbut was confirmed last month to his submit on the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, which coordinates with 19 federal departments and businesses and works with states and the personal sector to deal with homelessness nationwide. And whereas he gained’t have a lot management over sources, he can have the chance to affect the White Home’s technique on the problems.

One of many adjustments he’ll be pushing for, he stated, is extra empowerment of native decision-making on addressing their unsheltered populations.

“What you want in Salt Lake Metropolis could be very totally different than what L.A. wants,” he stated. “And so considered one of our views that we’re going to attempt to begin speaking rather a lot about is the necessity to permit native communities to design techniques that deal with your native, distinctive wants reasonably than a one-size, cookie-cutter method which will or will not be profitable.”

‘He is aware of the gamers’

All through his dozens of journeys to Salt Lake Metropolis within the lead-up to Operation Rio Grande and the transition to a brand new system for delivering homeless providers, Marbut advocated for the adoption of a campus-style homeless shelter model, the place all providers are concentrated in a single location with prepared entry to well being care, counseling, job coaching and different sources.

That’s just like a facility he supervised the creation of in San Antonio referred to as Haven for Hope, a 22-acre shelter that gives centralized providers to about 1,700 folks a day and that state leaders have credited with lowering homelessness.

Others have been vital of some parts of the power’s method — significantly the requirement that some folks experiencing homelessness sleep in an outside courtyard and earn their rights to maneuver inside for greater high quality sleeping preparations and extra privateness via good conduct.

Throughout considered one of Marbut’s visits to Salt Lake Metropolis in 2015, the Crossroads City Middle and The Legacy Initiative took part in a “Kindness Protest” outside a town-hall meeting the place he was talking in an effort to lift their opposition to his concepts round offering meals and clothes for homeless folks and his campus-style website proposal.

Salt Lake Metropolis and state leaders finally determined to go a unique method. They constructed a dispersed center system with three new resource centers — two in Salt Lake Metropolis and one in South Salt Lake — that supply a full suite of providers and case administration and a transfer away from the outdated emergency “warehousing” mannequin, during which purchasers have been required to vacate every morning after which wait in line to get a mattress for the night time.

Marbut stated he’s visited the three new facilities a number of instances and believes the mannequin might be profitable, although he stated it’s not as cost-effective as a mall method.

“It’s going to be costlier to function a scattered website, however you possibly can nonetheless make it work nicely” with a great data administration and case administration system and excessive ranges of coordination between service suppliers, he stated.

Nonetheless, Marbut had at the very least one criticism of the brand new system: the continued presence of homeless sources, significantly these offered by Catholic Neighborhood Providers, within the Rio Grande neighborhood.

Matthew Melville, Catholic Neighborhood Providers’ homeless providers director, stated he has some “philosophical” disagreements with Marbut on the subject of serving folks experiencing homelessness. Not all folks need to go right into a in a single day shelter, he stated, however they need to nonetheless have the ability to entry providers at a day heart like Weigand.

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file picture) Matthew Melville, homeless providers director at Catholic Neighborhood Providers talks about adjustments which have already been made after looking for enter from the homeless group on the Weigand Middle and its new homeless useful resource heart in Salt Lake Metropolis.
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“Perhaps he doesn’t know that a part of it; unsure that he would care about that,” Melville stated.

A member of the Pioneer Park Coalition board was in Washington, D.C., when Marbut was confirmed final month, and “he assured us that he’ll present as a lot help to Utah and the coalition as he can,” the group wrote in its e-newsletter.

Scott Howell, a member of the group’s board of administrators, informed The Tribune that Marbut was a “good reinforcement” throughout conversations concerning the new homeless useful resource heart system. And whereas he praised the path of the brand new providers, he stated the mission “hasn’t been completed in any respect” and believes Marbut may assist the state sooner or later.

“We need to preserve the momentum transferring and I feel it’s actually necessary that we’ve got somebody, I imply, what a great factor for us that he is aware of Utah,” Howell stated. “He’s been right here, he’s seen it and toured all the brand new shelters. He is aware of the gamers. It’s simply good to have that.”

“In all probability he’ll speak rather a lot about California and what the Trump administration thinks ought to be completed to cut back road homelessness in California,” he stated. “And I don’t suppose that’s going to have a big impact on us right here in Utah.”

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