Dr. Ben Carson
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
Panel Discussion with Southern California’s Faith-Based Leaders
Riverside, California, February 12, 2020


As prepared for delivery. The speaker may add or subtract comments during his presentation.

Thank you, Mayor [Rusty] Bailey and Pastor [Tom] Lance. It is my pleasure to be here at the Grove Community Church with the leaders of Southern California’s faith-based community.

I’m in California this week as part of a nationwide bus tour focused on affordable housing. During this “Driving Affordable Housing Across America” bus tour, I’ll be visiting communities across the country and participating in a wide range of activities related to eliminating regulatory barriers to affordable housing. This afternoon, I’m delighted to be with you all for a discussion about the important role the faith community plays in answering the call for affordable housing in neighborhoods around the nation.

Faith has been the bulwark of America since her inception — and indeed, even before she was a unified country.

In 1630, John Winthrop preached to a small band of Puritans crossing the Atlantic on a quest for religious liberty. He spoke memorably of the significance of their new home, saying, “We shall be as a shining city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us.”

The eyes of the world were indeed on these settlers, and this very theme was picked up by America’s pastors in the Revolutionary War.

The patriot-preachers of colonial America were known as the “Black-Robe Regiment,” for the long black robes they wore from the pulpit. Many historians say the Revolution would not have been possible were it not for these pastors galvanizing the American people in support of independence with an appeal to those “certain inalienable rights” bestowed on us by our Creator.

Homelessness

At HUD, we believe the faith-based community still plays an important in securing the blessings of liberty for all Americans, just like at the time of our founding.

As government has expanded, HUD often does a lot of the same kind of work today that, in the past, would be done solely by churches.

But this Administration firmly believes the private sector and local communities can partner with the government in caring for our most vulnerable men, women and children. America’s churches stand on the very frontline of that fight.

Of course, a major part of our work at HUD involves supporting programs that help our homeless populations. Unfortunately, here in California, homelessness is certainly not hard to find. Earlier today I had the opportunity to visit the Grove Village Housing Project right here in Riverside, and I was very impressed by the collaborative effort that was imperative to making these homes a reality. I have seen the way a surge of enthusiasm can overtake a church community when they unite behind a common project — and it is a magnificent thing to behold. The Grove Village Housing Project is evidence of this spirit of determination, and I commend your dedication to caring for your fellow neighbors in need.

Churches are in a unique position to tackle homelessness because they can develop real, personal relationships with our suffering brothers and sisters. These relationships, and the personal care that can only be provided by a person acting out of love, demonstrate true compassion, and a renewed sense of personal responsibility can only flourish through these personal connections.

As the Gospel of Matthew tells us, “whatever you do for the least of my people, you do unto me.”

This spirit of charity is not a call to simply enable those suffering to persist in their misery. Instead, it is a challenge to set people upon the path to self-sufficiency and allow them to live with dignity as children of God.

Another advantage our churches have is the know-how to get projects like the Grove Village Project done. You all have doctors, dentists, coaches, teachers, landlords and countless other contributors to your communities. These residents have a diverse set of talents to help equip a struggling individual with the skills they need to get back on their feet.

My personal vision is that programs like these, led by leaders like yourselves, can be a template for faith-based organizations all across America.

Announcement of New Rule Supporting Faith-Based Institutions

To continue the spread of these success stories, today I am pleased to announce that HUD is issuing a new rule regarding religious freedom, called the “equal participation of faith-based organizations in HUD programs and activities.”

For HUD, this change represents an opportunity for faith-based entities to receive equal consideration as applicants and be awarded grants for programs to reduce homelessness, such as Continuum of Care, Community Development Block Grants, Disaster Recovery Grants, bidding on FHA note sales, and more.

This new rule will empower faith-based organizations to access previously unavailable funds and facilitate greater cooperation between the federal government and the faith-based community, so that together, we can work to end the homelessness crisis.

Conclusion

As President Trump stated in his State of the Union address last week, “In America, we celebrate faith. We cherish religion. We lift our voices in prayer, and we raise our sights to the Glory of God.”

In that spirit, I want to thank you all of you here today for the impact you have on your communities. HUD looks forward to continuing to empower you to do God’s work, and our country is eager to continue seeing the fruits of your charity.

We must remember that America is still to this day that shining “city upon a hill.” The eyes of the world are still upon us. Together, we can work to fulfill our calling to help those Americans left behind, for we are all made in the image and likeness of God.

Thank you, and God bless.

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