AUSTIN, Texas - Transient camps like those under I-35 in downtown Austin are a common sight and have increased across town since the city council repealed the camping ban ordinance last June.
On Wednesday during a panel discussion with HUD Secretary Ben Carson, that approach to homelessness was held up as a failed strategy.
“Some people think compassion is, there, there you poor little thing I’m going to take care of you, that’s not compassion. Compassion is how do I get this person to realize their potential,” said Secretary Carson.
Carson is in Austin to talk about a new strategy, a comprehensive approach developed by the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness called "Expanding the Toolbox".
“You can throw money at this till the cows come home and that’s not gonna fix it. But if you don’t put money into treatment programs it’s not gonna work. You have to get to the bottom of the issue what is actually causing the problem and then you use your resources more effectively,” said Secretary Carson.
The key part of this new strategy is requiring the homeless to participate in treatment and job training programs.
“It's tying the house and the services together and when you tie those together, and that’s when you have very good success,” said council executive director Dr. Robert Marbut.
The panel included Allen Graham with Mobile Loaves and Fishes, who spoke about finding more ways to help faith-based groups get more involved like using their property as resource centers and not just places of worship. “If you can help me with the math it actually turns out that what appears to be a giant issue can be very small if we put too much policy in place that very small issue becomes a giant issue," he said.
Graham was invited because of his community-first village built here in Austin. While the village is held up as a way to combat the problem, he reminded everyone there is no easy quick fix. “I don’t think that there is any one idea that solves anything on the face of the planet,” he said.
For Carson there are some things that may provide immediate relief; like not raising the rent on people in subsidize housing just because they’re able to increase their income a little bit.
“That’s not good for family formation," Carson said. "It’s almost as if somebody sat down and calculated how do we keep these people dependent, how do we keep them under our thumb, we’ve got a find a way to break through that."
No one from Austin City Hall took part in the panel.
The plan was also criticized by an advocacy group called the National Alliance to End Homelessness. In a statement sent to FOX 7, the group said "What’s been pitched is a plan in name only with no clear strategy on how to implement it."