Ben Carson: I hoped to find more 'urgency in the leadership' in California on homelessness

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson said Thursday that California's government is not showing "urgency" in finding constructive solutions to the state's homelessness epidemic.

Carson told Ed Henry exclusively on "The Story" that the U.S. has made great strides over the last 10 years to reduce homelessness -- if the figures omitted the Golden State.

"It’s truly amazing. We’ve actually been making very good progress over the course of the last decade, in terms of homelessness, except in California," he said.

California's homeless rate has been around 16 percent, Carson said, adding there's no "simple fix" to the situation.

He responded to sharp criticism from Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, who appeared to blame the Trump administration for not acting effectively to solve the crisis.

In recent remarks, Newsom claimed the White House was "not serious" about the homelessness issue and was playing politics with it instead.

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"If they want to surprise me, we will celebrate that," Newsom said.

However, Henry pointed out that the San Francisco Chronicle -- in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's, D-Calif., home district -- applauded Carson's efforts on the subject, adding that Newsom appeared more inclined to play up the crisis for "political gain."

Carson said the best way to help the homeless crisis would be to get to the root cause of homelessness.

"First of all, you have a significant number of people with disturbances in their mental capacity. We have drug addiction, and we have people who simply cannot afford to live in a place where you have so many regulations that drive up the cost of everything," he said.

He dismissed Sacramento's calls for more HUD vouchers, saying such aid came from a nationwide pool of money that "doesn't grow because you say, 'grow it.'"

He continued, "So, the better thing to do is go and look at the root cause: Why are things they are so expensive? What can be done about them? And then, how can we deal with the mentally ill individuals?"

Washington "recently was given a waiver by HHS so they could use Medicaid dollars for mental illness. California could apply for that same waiver. And, those are the kind of things that have to be done, and they have to be done with the federal, state, local, as well as faith-based, the for-profit, the not-for-profits -- we need to work together to get this done; it can be done, absolutely," Carson added.

Henry later asked if the secretary had a direct message for Newsom.

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"My message is, 'Let's put the people first, let's not worry about other peripheral issues,'" he responded.

"It's Christmastime. Think about what the Bible says," he added. "'He that oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker. He that honoreth with him has mercy on the poor.' Let’s think about some mercy on the poor. Let’s think about real compassion. Let’s not think about ways that we can keep people dependent and in these horrible situations, but how can we liberate them?"

Fox News' Ed Henry contributed to this report.