He also ran the Boston shelter providers trade association for awhile, which was not to be confused with the advocacy coalition that actually did things for poor people. This was the coalition that did things for service providers.
Phil was widely regarded as an oleaginous chameleon in a nice suit.
So when he got reinvented as the Bush administration's maverick crusader to end homelessness, it sort of made sense.
He and I had dinner together about five years ago, back when he was still new and I was still sort of giving him the benefit of the doubt. He had this stagey "down with the people" routine that I found really annoying, and would affect instant intimacy with anyone who was homeless as he asked for their story and felt their pain.
I guess he still does that.
He had all the elements of his rap down even then. There was the "Massachusetts Abolitionist" line. "Republicans ended slavery and they'll end homelessness too." I did my best to try to pin him down on whether he was a D or an R but he wasn't talking.
There was also the evangelical belief in the power of data and in Housing First, although back then he was still promising that the feds would offer resources. He's pretty much backed off of that one. He was also saying that federal housing policy should focus on those under thirty percent of median income. He doesn't say that anymore either.
When I asked how you could end homelessness without addressing deepening poverty or widening inequality, he said that affluence and poverty were unconnected.
I wonder if most Republicans think that? How convenient.
So, I'm a Phil watcher. It's astonishing to me that this guy can walk into a room full of homeless advocates anywhere in the United States and not get lynched. I used to go nearly apoplectic over his press.
Now I just think it's kind of funny.
Take this article, for instance, Abolitionist Apostle, where he was awarded Governing.com's 2006 public official of the year award. He compares himself to Saint Francis of Assisi. Phil Fucking Mangano, the guy who hobnobs with the powerful, is known for his finely tailored suits, always flies first class, and takes limos instead of cabs.
This article, like many, discusses how Phil's work is a "spiritual calling."
When I really want to torture myself, I read his Religion & Ethics interview, in which he utters the words "I think it simply reminds us that ultimately the issue of homelessness is a spiritual issue. It's not really an ideological issue, it's not a political issue, it's not an economic issue," and again refers to his "Franciscan nature." But if you're really looking to be entertained, skip to the part where he talks about Simone Weil. "She is a patron saint of mine, I would say. When I read her words, it's pretty much sacramental to me."
Another story from New Orleans captures his big vision, no substance style nicely.
"Those same voices have been around for a long time," he says, his voice rising as he heads toward a big point. Those same voices told Frederick Douglass and Elizabeth Cady Stanton that slavery wouldn't end and that women couldn't be equal, he says. They told Andrei Sakharov and Alexander Solzhenitsyn that the Iron Curtain would never fall, told Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu that apartheid would never end.Nice. The day he can reconcile his boss' constant attacks on the poor end 'ending homelessness" will be the day he can invoke Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu without making me want to puke.
"They were wrong then -- and they're wrong now," Mangano says.
But no search is complete until you've seen the Philip Mangano Quote Page.
Here's one that you're better off not over-thinking: “We've been bailing the leaky boat of homelessness ... only to see more people fall in.”
Metaphor isn't one of his gifts.
Another of his favorite lines is that “The very definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.” He stole this from Albert Einstein, but it's a good one.
The feds take $52 billion in federal housing dollars away and replace that with $1.5 billion in money for homeless programs, and then wonder why homelessness isn't going away. I'll bet Einstein could figure that one out, even if Phil can't.