COLUMBUS, Ohio—U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson was in Columbus on Tuesday to announce $2.16 billion in competitive federal grants to help thousands of homeless assistance programs around the country.
The funding – an increase of about $200 million compared to the grants awarded last year – includes almost $109 million for homelessness projects in Ohio, according to a HUD release. More than $28 million of that will be awarded to projects in Cuyahoga County.
“This announcement is an important step to helping people regain their independence,” Carson said during a news conference at Huckleberry House, a homeless shelter for youth in Columbus. “Because that’s what real compassion is – not just putting somebody in a program, but making sure that that person can realize their God-given potential, can really become part of the strength of this country and realize their American dream.”
While touting the grants, Carson also said he wanted to emphasize that the problem of homelessness cannot be solved just with money. The root cause of the problem, he said, are the economic factors that produce the “runaway cost in housing.” He didn’t elaborate on what those factors are or what should be done to address them.
In the Columbus area, home prices reached a record high last year.
Ohio’s homeless population dropped nearly 20 percent between 2010 and 2017, to an estimated 6,688 people. However, the actual number of homeless people can be much higher than government estimates, as counts don’t factor in people such as couch-surfers or those who stay with friends but don’t have permanent housing.
Carson added that America can combat homelessness by addressing drug addiction and taking better care of the mentally disabled. “Then, I think, we will find real solutions,” Carson said.
Carson was accompanied by Gov. Mike DeWine and U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers, a Columbus Republican, as well as the district director for U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty, a Columbus Democrat. All three have been involved with efforts to reduce homelessness.