Harder Encourages Homelessness Council to Reject Appointment of Partisan Nominee

December 9, 2019
Press Release
Robert Marbut Supported Efforts to Shut Down Soup Kitchen, Opposes Proven Methods of Alleviating Homelessness

WASHINGTON – Representative Josh Harder (CA-10) in a letter opposed the appointment of Robert Marbut as the next Executive Director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH). Marbut has served as a consultant to various cities, advising them on housing issues, but opposes the proven “housing first” model – a policy that has been supported by Republican and Democratic Administrations – which ensures people have a safe place to stay without tacking on additional obstacles. Marbut also encouraged the City of Clearwater, Florida, to work to shut down a soup kitchen and stop church groups and other nonprofit organizations from feeding the homeless.

“Homelessness is a crisis that needs real leadership and effective solutions, now. Robert Marbut is not the right person for the job,” said Rep. Harder. “We need to help people help themselves – and we can do that with proven methods like housing first – not cutting people loose and hoping for the best.”

Rep. Harder is a leader in efforts to address the homelessness crisis in California. Earlier this year, Rep. Harder signed on to the Fighting Homelessness Through Services Act, which would provide $750 million in grant funding to help local governments provide housing and wraparound services to homeless individuals. Earlier this year, Harder announced two federal grants to improve low and moderate income housing and shelters in Modesto.

The text of the letter to USICH’s Chairman, Frank Brogan, is below and an original copy is available here.


Dear Chairman Brogan,

Thank you for your timely attention to this vitally important issue. I write today to express strong opposition to the confirmation of Robert Marbut as the Executive Director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (Council).

As you know, the mission of the Council is to coordinate and catalyze federal responses to homelessness to prevent and reduce homelessness in America. The Executive Director of the Council is tasked with overseeing one of our nation’s most challenging problems – ending homelessness.

Given this vital responsibility, Robert Marbut’s track record on housing issues is particularly troublesome since he’s been a vocal advocate for policies that undermine proven housing solutions, including the decades-old Housing First model – a bipartisan model that recognizes we need to get people into housing before we can effectively solve other problems that they may have, including mental health or substance-abuse related issues. Research shows this model works and even helped Utah reduce its chronically homeless population by 91%.

Homelessness has skyrocketed in California. We have the nation’s largest homeless population with over 130,000 homeless Californians, including a growing homeless population in the Central Valley. It’s an incredibly important issue for my district. My constituents deal with the challenges of rising housing and rental costs, housing shortages, and limited federal support. The average apartment rent has climbed from $788 per month to $1,205 in little more than five years.

And while many cities across the country have bounced back since the last recession, the Valley continues to confront a series of problems that impact our local economy, including grappling with one of the highest poverty rates in the nation with one in five residents living in poverty. This is simply unacceptable.

That is why we need a Director who understands our housing crisis and can effectively combat homelessness in my district. We are at a critical juncture right now – I urge you to reject appointing Robert Marbut as the Executive Director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. Thank you for your attention to this critical matter.

Council on Homelessness. Thank you for your attention to this critical matter.