Housing First Advocates Protest USICH Director Marbut’s Visit to Denver

Denver, CO – The day after President Donald Trump descended on Colorado Springs Thursday for a rally, Robert Marbut Jr., the new U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) Director, and Housing Secretary Ben Carson are reportedly meeting with Denver’s Mayor Michael Hancock today, February 21. The local unhoused community and their advocates protested the meeting, which they believe will focus on discussing Marbut’s version of poorhouses, forced warehousing designed to control and supervise the behavior of poor people.

Unicorn Riot covered the protest outside the City and County Building. Watch live below:

According to Denver Homeless Out Loud, the advocacy group behind the protest, Marbut is “a long time advocate of homeless concentration camps.” Before becoming the USICH Director, Marbut was a consultant to U.S. cities in states like Florida, California, and Texas advising them on how to manage services for unhoused individuals, who he believes are living in poverty due solely to their behavior.

In Marbut’s first “transformational campus” called Haven for Hope in San Antonio, residents who struggle with addiction have to sleep on concrete in the “Prospects Courtyard,” and only get the privilege to sleep under a roof when they pass a drug test.

One of the speaker’s at today’s protest was a former student who hasn’t been able to continue receiving education because he’s lacked a permanent home address.

Another speaker said, “If I was mayor, I’d go to the neighborhoods and I’d introduce housed people to unhoused people by name,” adding that he’d like to see people gathering at community centers to share meals and conversation.

At today’s event we interviewed M. Julie Patiño, the Director of Basic Human Needs at Denver Foundation (a community organization which funds Denver Homeless Out Loud). Patiño said it’s no mystery why houselessness is endemic, and that the administration’s belief that unhoused people are “undeserving” of housing due to individual failings “completely abdicates everybody who has anything to do with systems work or government from any responsibility for affordable housing, for equity, for making sure that people have a housing wage to live with.

It’s taken a long time for providers to get into that space where they’re thinking about people holistically, and we’re talking about having an administration that wants to roll that back. And frankly, I think it’s a very militarized response.” — M. Julie Patiño, Director of Basic Human Needs at Denver Foundation

Patiño added that the “mass shelter incarceration” of the shelter industrial complex was originally put forth as a FEMA-based response, and that such shelters were never meant to serve as housing. “What I would like to see are solutions that are based in the lived experience of people who are actually experiencing homelessness, coupled with the resources.”

When Unicorn Riot reached out to Mayor Hancock’s office for comment, we were told that the mayor has no meetings Friday, and therefore has no comment. However when we reached out to Marbut for comment, USICH Director of Communications Jennifer Rich confirmed that Marbut is in Denver Friday and that he has a full day of meetings; Rich said she did not know if one of the meetings was with the mayor.


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