On Friday, Sept. 11, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) submitted public comment on a proposed regulation modifying the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s “Equal Access Rule” for temporary and emergency shelters. Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop David A. Konderla of Tulsa, chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, issued the following statement:

“Our Catholic faith teaches that housing is a universal and inviolable right of all persons. This right must be available to all people, and we have a particular concern for individuals who are most vulnerable. We advocate for this just as Catholic service providers endeavor to meet the needs of all who come to their doors. In this way, we pursue the imperative work of mercy that Jesus made known in saying ‘I was … a stranger and you welcomed me.’

“The regulation proposed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, modifying rules with respect to sex-specific accommodations, poses considerations affecting the well-being of, and service to, the poor. Though not perfect nor answering all questions, it is a step in the right direction toward improving flexibility while respecting all persons’ right to basic shelter, for which we are grateful.

“Because individual shelters function under varying circumstances, have different facilities and resources, and may have specialized programming or work with distinctly vulnerable persons, ‘one-size-fits-all’ mandates may not always be appropriate. Flexibility for personnel to ensure shelters and their arrangements are as beneficial as possible for all persons, while remaining faithful to the truths that motivate their service, is important.”

The full text of the USCCB comment letter may be accessed at: https://www.usccb.org/offices/general-counsel/rulemaking/9.8.2020.final_.HUD_.comments.pdf.