[Hpn] NCH's letter to the Honorable Mel Martinez, Secretary of the U.S. Dept. of HUD

Morgan W. Brown morganbrown@hotmail.com
Fri, 13 Jul 2001 02:03:37 -0400


Below is a forward of two letters from the National Coalition for the 
Homeless (NCH) which may be of interest:

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-------Forwarded FYI-------

NCH's letter to the Honorable Mel Martinez, Secretary of the U.S. Department 
of Housing and Urban Development


Letter to the Honorable Mel Martinez
<http://www.nationalhomeless.org/martinezletter.html>

In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson and 
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez, NCH outlined a number 
of principles <http://www.nationalhomeless.org/martinezprinciples.html>  
that the Departments should take into consideration as they develop a 
collaborative response to homelessness. Click here for the text of the 
letter.


July 9, 2001

The Honorable Mel Martinez
Secretary
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
451 7th St SW
Washington, DC 20410

Dear Secretary Martinez:

At a recent Washington Times editorial breakfast (Shift of Homeless Services 
Eyed, June 19, 2001), you observed that HUD had "spent a large, large sum of 
money over the past 10 years on homeless issues, with very little to show 
for it." While an inaccurate and misleading assessment of HUD expenditures 
and track record on homelessness, such a statement does in a rather 
backhanded way highlight the much deeper economic and structural dimensions 
of the housing crisis.

Congress passed the McKinney Homeless Assistance Act in 1987 as an urgent 
relief measure to deal with the staggering growth of homelessness that was 
emerging in the 1980s. The programs were never designed to end homelessness, 
but rather serve the immediate housing needs of people dislocated by such 
dramatic social and economic shifts. Unfortunately, since McKinney’s passage 
an additional one million households have joined the list of worst case 
housing needs, i.e., people whose income is less than 50 percent of area 
median and who pay over half their earnings for housing. Such unacceptable 
numbers do not reflect the failure of HUD’s homeless programs, which 
continue to serve the emergency needs of people experiencing homelessness, 
but rather a larger policy and market failure to provide affordable housing 
for all the country’s people. Surely the Secretary would not similarly 
conclude that FEMA or the American Red Cross "has little to show" for their 
efforts because they are merely responding to an immediate crisis.

Equally troubling are your reported comments that homelessness is "by and 
large an issue of addiction, mental illness, and things of that nature." It 
is shocking and discouraging to hear the Secretary of HUD dissociate 
homelessness from the larger housing crisis. To be sure, the range of the 
population experiencing homelessness does include people with mental illness 
and addiction, but also counted among the ranks are veterans, elderly, 
families, people on fixed incomes, youth and workers making less than $9.00 
an hour. The "cause" of homelessness for these groups of people, as well as 
for people with disabilities, is the dramatic increase in housing costs 
combined with a simultaneous loss and lack of affordable units and extremely 
low vacancy rates. According to recent studies based on HUD’s own fair 
market rent standards, no person-working full time and earning the federal 
minimum wage can afford a place to live. Whatever variety of factors may 
contribute to homelessness, a lack of affordable housing, health issues and 
a living income are the common sustaining elements.

Finally, it is of great concern that you feel there exist multiple 
duplicative homeless programs, and that HUD should accordingly transfer "the 
bulk of homeless programs" to your colleague Tommy Thompson and the 
Department of Health and Human Services. Such response implies that people 
experiencing homelessness are "over served." Nothing could be farther from 
the truth. The next time you pass someone living on the streets ask them if 
they are being over served. People without homes are hardly beating back 
multiple service providers searching for clients. On the contrary, unmet 
needs are growing daily as the number of people without a place to live 
increases. Whatever range of factors HHS and HUD consider as they "unravel 
the regulatory maze" of homeless assistance programs, a lack of affordable 
housing, health issues and extreme poverty remain the fundamental 
underpinnings of our national tragedy, as 3.5 million of our brothers and 
sisters can testify to. You, as the Secretary of HUD, should recognize as 
much.

Sincerely,

Sue Watlov Phillips, Acting Executive Director

Donald Whitehead, President

---End of forwarded July 9th letter---

~~~Principles:

Principles that Thompson and Martinez should consider as they develop a 
collaborative response to homelessness
<http://www.nationalhomeless.org/martinezprinciples.html>

June 13, 2001

The Honorable Tommy Thompson
Secretary
U.S. Department of Health
200 Independence Ave SW
Washington DC 20201

The Honorable Mel Martinez
Secretary
U.S. Department of Housing and Human Services and Urban Development
451 7th St SW
Washington DC 20410

Dear Secretary Thompson and Secretary Martinez:

I am writing on behalf of the National Coalition for the Homeless to thank 
you for your early and active leadership in ensuring that the U.S. 
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and U.S. Department of Housing 
and Urban Development (HUD) play full and meaningful roles in the federal 
response to homelessness in America.

The National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH), founded in 1984, is a 
national network of people who are or who have been homeless, activists and 
advocates, community-based and faith-based service providers, and others 
committed to creating the systemic and attitudinal changes to prevent and 
end homelessness and meet the immediate needs of people who are without 
housing or at risk of losing it.

We are aware that your departments are exploring new policy actions to 
address homelessness. We appreciate your decision to respond quickly to the 
plight of the poorest people in our nation. As your departments craft 
homelessness initiatives (whether they be distinct from each other or 
integrated), there are several principles to which we believe you must 
adhere. These principles amplify the broad recommendations for ending and 
preventing homelessness that NCH and four other national homeless advocacy 
organizations submitted to President Bush in March 2001.(see footnote) A 
copy of our communication to the President is attached.

HHS and HUD must ensure service supports and housing opportunities for all 
people experiencing homelessness. Homelessness is a tragic life circumstance 
for all of those experiencing the life circumstance, regardless of its 
causes. There is no "category" of people experiencing homelessness who are 
more deserving than others of the housing and services that the departments 
and their grantees offer. Accordingly, we urge the departments to address 
the housing and services needs of the entire homeless population in their 
forthcoming homelessness initiatives.

HHS and HUD must involve people experiencing homelessness in developing the 
national response to homelessness. People experiencing homelessness and 
their advocates are best able to identify the practical responses to their 
immediate survival needs, the incremental actions that shift our nation from 
managing homelessness toward resolving and preventing it, and the ultimate 
responses needed to eradicate extreme poverty and the lack of affordable 
housing, which cause homelessness in the first place. We urge the 
departments to engage in full consultation with people experiencing 
homelessness, homeless advocacy organizations, and other partners as they 
develop their homelessness initiatives.

HHS and HUD must invest in ending homelessness. Any significant responses to 
homelessness require accompanying investments of fiscal resources. Solutions 
that are proposed or implemented without providing complementary funds or by 
shifting level funds between systems or programs virtually assure either the 
status quo or utter failure. We urge the departments to seek and secure the 
new resources required to implement meaningful and lasting solutions to end 
and prevent homelessness.

HHS and HUD must accelerate the use of mainstream programs to respond to 
homelessness. Programs designed specifically to prevent homelessness or to 
meet the immediate needs of people experiencing homelessness simply receive 
too little funding to accomplish these goals. Nor are they the most 
appropriate vehicles for ensuring long-term housing and services to them. On 
the other hand, a vast network of housing and services programs have been 
established to provide opportunities and supports to all poor people, 
including people experiencing homelessness. Regrettably, people experiencing 
homelessness are confronted with numerous barriers when attempting to access 
and utilize these programs. We urge the departments to seek legislative 
solutions and implement administrative policies and practices (both 
incentives and requirements) that substantially boost the role of mainstream 
housing and services programs in responding to homelessness.

HHS and HUD must increase their commitment to targeted homeless programs. 
The small set of federally-funded homeless programs is an essential lifeline 
to the millions of people who are without homes each year. Not only are they 
important for homelessness prevention and for providing outreach, emergency 
shelter, transitional housing, support services, and supportive housing to 
people experiencing homelessness, they also serve as gateways into and 
extensions of mainstream programs. Until homelessness is no longer a fixture 
of our society, we must sustain these front-line responses to the immediate 
needs of people experiencing homelessness. We urge the departments to seek 
the resources necessary to allow all people experiencing homelessness the 
opportunity to access the programs that ensure their survival.

HHS and HUD should use existing mechanisms to foster collaborative responses 
to homelessness. The effort to address homelessness in the public sector has 
resulted in the development of a set of policy development, implementation, 
and monitoring apparatuses. At the federal level, the Interagency Council on 
the Homelessness is an available body for ensuring collaboration not solely 
between your departments, but with other federal departments and agencies. 
At the state level, a number of states operate equivalent interagency 
councils. And at the state and local levels, the Continuum of Care process 
developed to award HUD McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grant funds serves 
as an effective mechanism for fostering collaboration among people 
experiencing homelessness and public, community-based, faith-based, and 
private organizations. We urge the departments to fund and strengthen these 
existing collaboration mechanisms.

Secretary Thompson and Secretary Martinez, we urge your departments to 
adhere to these principles in any homelessness initiatives released by your 
departments or the Bush Administration. We welcome your interest in 
advancing initiatives to reduce homelessness in our nation. We ask that you 
include the National Coalition for the Homeless in designing any systemic or 
programmatic changes you are developing.


Sincerely,

Sue Watlov Phillips, M.A., L.P., L.M.F.T., L.I.C.S.W.
Acting Executive Director

Enclosure

cc:
The Honorable Claude Allen, Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services
The Honorable Alphonso Jackson, Deputy Secretary of Housing and Urban 
Development
The Honorable Bobby Jindhal, Assistant Secretary of Planning and Evaluation,
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
The Honorable Roy Bernardi, Assistant Secretary of Community Planning and 
Development,
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

*(footnote) Recommendations to the Bush Administration for Ending and 
Preventing Homelessness, March 2001, endorsed by the National Coalition for 
the Homeless, National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, National Health Care 
for the Homeless Council, National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, and 
National Network for Youth.

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**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this
material is distributed without charge or profit to
those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving
this type of information for non-profit research and
educational purposes only.**

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-------End of forward-------

Morgan <morganbrown@hotmail.com>
Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA


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