|HUD No. 01-020|
|Further Information:||For Release|
|In the Washington, DC area: 202/708-0685||Wednesday|
|Or contact your local HUD office||January 31, 2001|
PRESIDENT BUSH AND SECRETARY MARTINEZ HONOR FAITH-BASED CHARITABLE GROUPS FOR BUILDING THE AMERICAN DREAM
WASHINGTON - Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez today joined President George W. Bush in honoring Catholic organizations for their work in helping low-income families, the homeless, the elderly and people living with AIDS. Today's ceremony is part of President Bush's effort to expand support for faith-based groups around the country.
Secretary Martinez's personal involvement in Catholic faith-based social service agencies began nearly 40 years ago. Born in Cuba, Martinez was 15-years-old when he was sent to America by his parents following the communist takeover of his homeland. The Miami Catholic Welfare Bureau helped organize Operation Pedro Pan, a humanitarian effort that ultimately brought more than 14,000 Cuban children to the U.S. in the wake of the Cuban revolution. Martinez was later reunited with his parents and began a new life in this country.
"Had it not been for the work of Catholic charities, I wouldn't be here today," said Secretary Martinez. "Kind-hearted people welcomed me to this country, gave me a home and helped me begin my own American dream."
Catholic charitable groups also provided Martinez a temporary home at two youth facilities, Camp Matecumbe in Miami and Camp St. John in Jacksonville, before arranging for foster care with Walter and Eileen Young, an Orlando couple with whom he remains very close.
Recognizing the role Catholic organizations played in his life, Martinez served on the board of the Catholic high school from which he graduated and was Vice President of the Board of Catholic Charities of the Orlando Diocese. "I know from personal experience what faith-based groups can do," said Martinez. "President Bush is right to reach out to the faith community who have an established track record doing the kind of work that changes lives."
Earlier this week, President Bush created the White House Office for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and directed five government agencies, including HUD, to establish their own respective offices within 45 days. President Bush's initiative will identify and eliminate regulatory, contracting and other obstacles to the participation of faith-based groups in the delivery of social services.
HUD's existing Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships gives HUD a unique head start in accomplishing the President's goal of expanding the link between government and faith-based organizations.
HUD currently funds community and interfaith groups to provide supportive services for the homeless as well as expanding housing opportunities for the elderly and disabled.