[Hpn] National Alliance to End Homelessness - HUD Secretary Mel Martinez -
July 19, 2002
Mon, 22 Jul 2002 18:09:50 -0500
National Alliance to End Homelessness Annual Conference
Remarks prepared for delivery
by Secretary Mel Martinez
Friday, July 19, 2002
Thank you for having me back. I appreciate your welcome, and I am especially
pleased to be introduced by Philip Mangano.
I am so happy that Philip has joined this Administration and that the entire
country will benefit from his lifetime of expertise and his passion for the
issue of homelessness.
A year ago, I talked to you about the Bush Administration's commitment to
seriously tackle the challenge of homelessness. I made several promises and
I pledged more cooperation between the many federal departments serving homeless
men, women, and families.
I told you we would reach out to the providers of homeless services on the
grassroots level and encourage more of you to partner with us.
And I embraced the goal put forward by the Alliance of working toward ending
chronic homelessness within the next ten years.
You greeted me warmly and I appreciated your support. I knew you were eager to
help us succeed, but I also understood that we were going to have to follow
through on our promises.
Well, that is exactly what we are doing, and I am here today with a progress
We are seeing many signs of progress in the fight against homelessness. The
signs are not yet found in the numbers, because too many Americans remain
homeless. But I find tremendous encouragement in our shared commitment and
focus, the enthusiastic response to our efforts, and the momentum our work is
generating across the country.
This Administration is committed to combating homelessness. President Bush took
the first, and most critical, step by reactivating the Interagency Council on
Homelessness and naming Philip Mangano as its Executive Director. I can think of
no clearer message that we are serious about taking on the homeless challenge.
The full Council and its 18 member agencies met yesterday for the first time in
six years. I think all of us who were there came away feeling that we have been
given a remarkable opportunity to fundamentally change the way this nation
perceives - and deals with - the issue of homelessness. And we have been
empowered to get the job done.
The Millennial Housing Commission - the bi-partisan commission set up by
Congress to study the federal role in housing - has endorsed our call to end
Many of the major newspapers across the country have written editorials
supporting the Administration. We even received some praise from the New York
Times. Referring to our goal to end chronic homelessness, the Times wrote, "This
may seem a surprising goal for a Republican administration… The good news is
that it is not rhetoric."
Major cities such as New York and Philadelphia are working toward ending chronic
homelessness in ten years. In Chicago, Mayor Daley is teaming up with advocates
and providers. In Los Angeles, leaders are developing a ten-year plan.
By committing this Administration and this nation to meeting the challenge of
homelessness, we are generating the kind of momentum that has not been felt
since July 22, 1987 - almost fifteen years ago to the day. That was the date the
McKinney Homeless Assistance Act became law and pledged a federal commitment to
those who are homeless.
A decade and a half later, despite the substantial investment of resources
called for by McKinney-Vento, homelessness remains. The dollars Washington has
devoted to solutions have made us more effective in managing homelessness, but
no more effective in preventing individuals from becoming homeless.
The Bush Administration offered more than $1 billion in grants this year through
HUD alone to providers of homeless services. This represents the largest amount
of homeless assistance in our nation's history. We are funding more than 2,500
The researchers tell us that 40,000 assistance programs on the local, state, and
federal levels serve homeless people in this country. Many of these programs are
run by agencies and organizations represented here today - members of the
Alliance working in partnership with us and doing wonderful work in their
Still, this massive commitment has not managed to reduce the level of
The data tells us that as many as two and a half million people experience
homelessness in this country every year. And researchers say that about 10
percent are experiencing chronic homelessness.
Most of the chronically homeless have an addiction or suffer from a disabling
physical or mental condition. They have been continuously homeless for a year or
more. They may get help for a short time, but they soon fall back to the streets
Then there is the other 90 percent. These are typically people who are propelled
into homelessness for a brief time when they hit a rough spot in life - maybe a
family illness or the loss of a job. Among this group, we are seeing a
disturbing increase in the number of homeless families, young people, and
I share your deep concern for every segment of the homeless population. But I
cannot ignore the research, which tells us that the 10 percent of individuals
who experience chronic homelessness consume more than half of all homeless
services. Because they use so many resources, they need to be a priority in our
For many years, Washington focused on intervention when it came to homelessness.
The assumption was that intervention was more important than prevention. So even
as federal programs ended homelessness for thousands of men, women, and
families, thousands refilled the empty beds.
Until now, government was misdiagnosing the condition and prescribing inadequate
Today's research tells us that prevention is just as important. And we have also
learned that we need to partner with the states to ensure that our systems of
care, treatment, and incarceration include exit strategies that prevent
individuals from being discharged into homelessness.
By following the research and focusing on ending chronic homelessness, we will
have more resources available to meet the needs of other homeless people.
Dr. Dennis Culhane of the University of Pennsylvania has studied this issue in
great depth. You heard from him yesterday, and he also spoke to us at the
Interagency Council meeting.
Dr. Culhane told us that the costs associated with placing a homeless person in
permanent supportive housing are essentially the same as maintaining and
managing that person in a state of homelessness. When they have access to basic
services like housing and treatment, homeless people have fewer acute episodes,
and are less likely to need expensive emergency interventions.
The research makes it clear that our best hope for ending homelessness of every
sort depends on addressing chronic homelessness. We are setting policy based on
that research. We are taking action based on that policy.
Our intent is to free up homeless resources and ensure access to mainstream
programs. In other words, to be smarter and more compassionate about our
This Administration is taking a holistic approach to homelessness. We are
looking at the entire picture - prevention and intervention - not just the
That means coordinating the efforts of every federal agency that touches
homeless Americans, and doing a better job of communicating among ourselves.
As I mentioned, the Interagency Council on Homelessness met yesterday.
I serve as Council chairperson. But I was also very pleased that Veterans'
Administration Secretary Principi and Agriculture Secretary Veneman joined us,
along with Deputy Secretaries and administrators from numerous federal agencies:
HHS, Labor, Education, Energy, FEMA, GSA, Interior, Justice, the Domestic Policy
Council, Social Security, and the White House Office of Management and Budget.
During the meeting, we reaffirmed that this Administration is serious about
helping people climb out of homelessness, and empowering them to lead the lives
they want to be living.
It was a tremendous meeting, and I was energized by the cooperation I saw.
The people who came together around that table share a desire to do something
meaningful about the problem of homelessness. They also share a commitment to
change the outcome - to see that by the time we conclude our service in this
Administration, we will have truly made a difference in the numbers of people
who are homeless in America.
Clearly, we are entering an era of unprecedented federal collaboration in
Reactivating the Interagency Council was just the first step in breaking down
the walls between federal agencies. HUD, HHS, and VA formed a joint task force
last year to study - and improve - the way in which we cooperate to help
homeless individuals. We have made great progress over the past year in building
on our strengths and better defining our roles.
Our goal is to expand our coordination. And so I am announcing today the
first-ever coordinated federal funding between HUD, HHS, and VA focused
specifically on creating and coordinating housing and services for those who are
This joint "Notice of Funding Availability" - or NOFA - will outline the
timelines, rules, application requirements, and criteria that we will use to
evaluate grant applications.
The grant funding will total $35 million in the coming fiscal year - $20 million
from HUD, $10 million from HHS, and $5 million from VA. All funds come from
other programs that will now be devoted to this effort. The funds will be
invested in a variety of programs for families, individuals, and veterans
focused on the President's chronic homelessness initiative.
We anticipate that the formal NOFA announcement will be made sometime toward the
end of this year. So please do not call today!
This joint collaboration on homelessness has never been tried before. Yet, it
makes perfect sense. By consolidating our funding, we are hoping to create a
better way of delivering funds to providers at the local level, and ultimately,
a better way to help move more families and individuals out of homelessness.
The federal government must also make mainstream assistance programs more
accessible. "Mainstream" programs include Medicaid, food stamps, and mental
health and substance abuse programs that are available to homeless individuals,
but are not necessarily being used by them.
The Administration reached out to the people who administer state assistance
programs by conducting two special training sessions in the past year. Through
these "policy academies," we offer guidance and technical help on how states can
more effectively fight homelessness with mainstream resources.
In the coming year, we plan to offer every state the opportunity to attend a
policy academy focused on ending chronic homelessness. By working together, we
will make mainstream programs accessible to more people.
At the same time we focus on chronic homelessness, we cannot ignore the growing
numbers of families who are homeless. Anyone could guess that homelessness is
extremely hard on children, but the research tells us that the children of
homeless individuals are more likely to become homeless themselves.
We can offer a child a way out of despair and hopelessness by providing
educational opportunities. As part of the President's "No Child Left Behind"
initiative, the Department of Education is creating a liaison for homeless
children in every school district.
We will ensure that these children have equal access to education and the
opportunities that a good education provides. In doing so, we offer them a path
out of homelessness. And this is just one initiative that will be part of a
larger planning process to respond to growing family homelessness.
Too many people released from prison find themselves without homes.
Our commitment to prevention includes a new collaborative effort headed up by
the Department of Justice that will help those reentering society after
Attorney General Ashcroft announced just this week that 49 states, the District
of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands will share $100 million in grant funds
through the new Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative. The Initiative
will help states create reentry strategies that reduce homelessness among former
The nation's faith-based organizations are on the frontline in combating
Through his Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, the President is reaching out
to organizations rooted in faith that serve homeless people at the grassroots
We are encouraging more of them to join us. Above all, we are working to ensure
that faith-based providers have the same access to federal funding as their
The Department of Labor is also reexamining its resources to make them more
accessible to homeless people.
Labor is introducing initiatives targeted to assisting homeless ex-offenders,
veterans, disabled individuals, and young people leaving the foster care system.
Along with reawakening the Council, we have brought together key policy and
research staff from the agencies that comprise the Council. This senior policy
group, which met last week for the first time, will help guide our strategic
Next, we will activate a group of program directors from each of our agencies to
support the work of the senior policy group. This has never been done before.
The Council will be launching a central homelessness website by the end of this
We know that we can do a better job getting information like funding
announcements into the hands of people who need it, whether they are state and
local officials, advocates and providers, or homeless people themselves.
We also plan to revitalize HUD's regional efforts. In other words, we are going
to ensure that we have at least one person in every regional office who
concentrates on the issue of homelessness.
And we will be holding a series of focus groups, bringing together folks from
the field, faith-based agencies, housing strategists, advocates, and homeless
people to talk with us about homelessness.
We need to listen to the experts and learn from their experiences and research.
Without the new federal commitment to cooperation, it is unlikely that these
ideas would have seen the light of day.
These new initiatives join a host of well-established federal programs that
support homeless individuals and families.
Overall, 14 targeted homeless programs are scattered among seven federal
These are programs like Healthcare for the Homeless; PATH, which has been so
helpful for people who are homeless and mentally ill; programs to support
homeless veterans; and substance abuse and mental health programs.
During a year in which the costs of fighting a war abroad and ensuring security
at home are consuming substantial federal resources, nearly all of these
programs received budget increases for the coming year.
The Administration proposed a total of $2.2 billion for funding these targeted
programs. This is a 3 percent increase.
In addition, the President's budget proposal increases mainstream resources that
can assist homeless people.
This includes housing funds, substance abuse treatment slots, and independent
living programs for those aging out of foster care. $500 billion worth of
mainstream resources are available to help homeless people.
All of us - on the federal level and in the states - need to do a better job of
making these resources accessible.
We know from our own research at HUD that the most acute housing shortage is for
those earning 30 percent of median income and less. So we need to work to make
our own mainstream resources more available to the poorest.
All of you have great passion for the issue that you have made your life's work.
I commend you for that commitment, and I applaud you for your dedication.
I want you to know that your dedication and your commitment are equally shared
by me, as I look at my responsibilities at the Department of Housing and Urban
Development. You can count on me to be a willing partner and a steady ally as we
move forward to achieve these shared goals.
We certainly have much more work ahead of us, but the Bush Administration's
commitment to America's homeless men, women, and families has new breadth and
new depth - and this gives me new hope that we will succeed.
The President and I appreciate the support of the National Alliance to End
Homelessness in meeting this challenge.
We will continue to seek out your suggestions and input.
We will continue to deliver solutions in a way that we believe best addresses
We are going to work with you. In our regional offices. Here in Washington. With
other federal agencies.
Our combined activism, experience, and enthusiasm will move us closer to
accomplishing our goals.
Every month, closer to ending chronic homelessness, Every year, closer to
ensuring a home for every American.
source page: http://www.hud.gov/news/speeches/endhomelessness.cfm
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
451 7th Street S.W., Washington, DC 20410
Telephone: (202) 708-1112 TTY: (202) 708-1455
H. C. [Sonny] Covington, Editor
Homeless and Housing News