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In Partnership with Discovery Institute

Compassion First: A Sensible Approach to America’s Homeless Crisis

2237 Rayburn House Office Building
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For nearly a decade, federal policies meant to address homelessness have centered around “Housing First,” which begins with an assumption that the crisis is driven primarily by a lack of affordable housing. But is it really? Studies show that most individuals experiencing homelessness suffer from severe addiction, untreated mental illness, or a combination of the two. Others end up on the streets because they have no one to turn to, typically owing to broken familial relationships. It’s time for a change.

This Friday Forum our panel explored a new approach that acknowledges that inherent dignity of those suffering and that focuses on restoration, recovery, and self-sufficiency.

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Steven J. Buri, President at Discovery Institute
Steve Buri is President of Discovery Institute, a national think tank based in Seattle. Prior to that, he co-founded Stewardship Partners, where he served as executive director from 1998 to 2000. He also served as a senior staff member for U.S. Senator Slade Gorton (1996-1998) and political director for U.S. Senate Candidate Christopher Bayley (1998). Mr. Buri is formerly an elected member of the Newcastle City Council, where he served eight years, including two as Deputy Mayor (2010-2011) and two as Mayor (2014-2015). In 2009, he founded the Roanoke Conference, today one of the largest privately sponsored Republican political gatherings in the country. In 2010, he was selected by the American Council of Young Political Leaders to participate as part of a bi-partisan political delegation to Nepal. Mr. Buri received a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science and Criminal Justice from Washington State University. He and his wife, Angelica, have two children. They live in Mercer Island, Washington.

Robert Marbut, Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute
Robert Marbut is a renowned expert on homelessness and a senior fellow of Discovery Institute's Center on Wealth & Poverty. Marbut has a PhD in Political Behavior and American Political Institutions and his career has been marked by bipartisanship having served as Chief of Staff for San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros in the 1980s, as a White House Fellow under George H. W. Bush, and most recently as the Executive Director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness from 2019 to 2021 under both the Trump and Biden administrations. Additionally, he served on the Board of Directors of the United States Olympic Committee from 1992 to 2004.

Wesley J. Smith, Senior Fellow – Discovery Institute
Wesley J. Smith is Chair and Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human
Exceptionalism. Wesley is a contributor to National Review and is the author of 14 books, in recent years focusing on human dignity, liberty, and equality. Wesley has been recognized as one of America’s premier public intellectuals on bioethics by National Journal and has been honored by the Human Life Foundation as a “Great Defender of Life” for his work against suicide and euthanasia. Wesley’s most recent book is Culture of Death: The Age of “Do Harm” Medicine, a warning about the dangers to patients of the modern bioethics movement.