Remarks of Secretary Julián Castro
25 Cities: Commending Your Journey
Department of Veterans Affairs Headquarters
Thursday, October 20, 2016

As prepared for delivery.

Good afternoon, everyone. Let's have another big hand for Matthew Doherty.

I want to second everything Matthew said about the great work he and his team at USICH are doing to help us reach the day when everyone who has worn the uniform of our Armed Forces has a secure place to call home. We couldn't ask for more engaged and thoughtful partners in that work - thank you, Matthew.

I also want to recognize two outstanding colleagues -Secretary Bob McDonald and Colonel William Johnson.

Achieving the President's bold vision of not simply addressing veteran homeless but ending it will continue to require courageous, creative leadership, and Secretary McDonald and Colonel Johnson more than fit the bill.

Bold visions require something else - and that's the partnership of empowered, passionate public servants like the folks in this room.

I want to recognize the nonprofit groups - Atlas Research, Community Solutions, and Rapid Results Institute - as well as the government and community leaders who are so committed to this effort. You're all doing incredible work to make sure your communities have systems in place so that we build on the progress to end homelessness, year after year.

And I'm encouraged that much of that progress is taking place in cities that had some of the highest rates of veteran homeless but that, thanks to 25 Cities, are getting more of our nation's heroes off the streets, out of shelters and into a secure home. Please give yourselves a big hand - you deserve it.

That progress is possible because 25 Cities and its partners put an emphasis on measuring the results of our work, which is critical.

As I learned when I was Mayor in San Antonio, and as I have seen time and again as HUD Secretary, you can't manage what you don't measure.

I don't have to tell you all that homelessness looks different in different communities.

Harnessing better data allows us to target more effective solutions, making it easier for veterans to get help no matter where they live or how they present.

And our work to improve coordinated entry in 25 Cities is now a big part of the progress we're seeing nationwide.

We've learned that if a city has a well-developed approach - one that is standardized, coordinated, and based on shared community values, it can significantly reduce the hardship of folks who are currently experiencing homelessness.

Everything from having to retell their painful stories and visiting multiple organizations before finally finding help, to waiting on never ending lists and being inadvertently screened out of the process entirely.

Coordinated entry helps communities prioritize in a way that ensures the people who need help the most, get it first.

It provides access to all of the resources that a community currently has to offer, and helps to inform future efforts by providing critical data on the challenges that families experiencing homelessness face today.

And it helps make sure that need is matched to resources, so people get just the right amount of help, which saves resources that can be used to help others.

That is why HUD, together with our federal partners, have established coordinated entry as a necessary component of a community's effort to end homelessness.

And we'll continue to develop policy and guidance that'll help every community put a strong coordinated entry process in place.

I want to thank 25 Cities because your insight has inspired a lot of the recent innovation around these issues that's taking place at HUD.

In fact, the cities that make up this incredible effort aren't afraid to try new approaches, and your willingness to take risks and be innovative is helping to push our entire nation forward.

I have seen that work firsthand here in Washington, and in other 25 Cities members like Los Angeles, New York, and New Orleans.

I've also seen the effect your example is having around the country.

More than 880 elected officials have signed on to the Mayor's Challenge. Thirty communities, including New Orleans, Mobile, Alabama, Troy, New York, and Winston-Salem, North Carolina have already effectively ended all forms of veteran homelessness. And two states - Virginia and Connecticut - have ended veteran homeless as well.

Those stories of triumph are possible when we refuse to leave anyone out or anyone behind. And it's the kind of progress that we'll continue to make in communities thanks to 25 Cities' leadership.

In 2010 when President Obama launched this groundbreaking effort, we thought that if we could effectively work with our partners in 25 priority cities to move the needle on this vital work, that it could become a model for the nation.

And since then, the number of veterans who spend the night on the streets or in a shelter has been cut nearly in half.

We've also supported more than 114,000 veterans and their families as part of HUD and the V-A's supportive housing efforts.

And we're stepping up our outreach to landlords so that veterans' housing vouchers will go further in the private marketplace.

We've achieved that by working together.  But our work isn't finished. I want to encourage everyone here to help spread the word to other communities.

Tell your colleagues in other cities and states about the progress we're making - and how we need their help to open the door to a secure home for every veteran.

Our message to America's veterans needs to be loud and clear: We've got your back.  

While we can never repay the sacrifice that they and their families have made for our nation, we can make sure that we hold up our end of the bargain - a responsibility that begins with ensuring they have a secure place to call home.  

That's the charge before us. It's the call you've all answered. And it's the future that I believe we're already building together.  

Thank you. 


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