Prepared Remarks for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan at the 2009 HUD Memorial Day Event

Washington, DC
Thursday, May 21st, 2009

Thank you. And thanks so much to the HUD employees who organized this event. Ladies and gentleman, please join me in giving the organizing committee a round of applause.

It's a great honor to join with the entire HUD community this afternoon to remember the brave men and women who have given their lives in service of our country. We are here today to honor the sacrifices that they, along with all of the men and women of the Armed Forces, have made as protectors of our democracy and our country's great freedoms.

As a country at war, we must use this Memorial Day holiday as a time to be thoughtful This is a time to reflect on those who are no longer with us and it is a time to remember the valiant service of our Armed Forces. There is not one of us standing in this plaza today that can say that our lives haven't been personally impacted and touched by the work of our servicemen and women.

As a country at war, we must also use this holiday as a time to be thankful. This is a time to show our gratitude to the heroes in our lives, it is a time to demonstrate with either our words or our actions that we appreciate everything that they have done for us. This is particularly a time to be thankful as we honor those Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice in service of our country.

When our servicemen and women sign up for the military, it is with the understanding and the willingness that during their service, they are at all times prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for our country. We stand here today with the utmost humility and gratitude to honor the sacrifice they have made. We gather together as Americans who are incredibly grateful for how fortunate we are that here in the United States we experience freedoms unparalleled in any other country in the world.

Certainly Memorial Day is a time to be thoughtful and thankful about those who have given their lives in service of our country, but as public servants, it is also a time to reflect on how we can best serve our troops when they return from duty. Memorial Day should remind all of us that the veterans who have served, or are currently serving, including members of our own HUD family, need our support when they return from war and return to civilian life.

Here at HUD, we know all too well how difficult that transition can be for so many veterans, and we understand that homelessness among our nation's veterans is far too common a phenomenon. Our veterans deserve better than to be homeless after so bravely serving and sacrificing for all of us, and I am committed to supporting the housing needs of veterans.

The funds that HUD received through President Obama's Recovery Act work to protect all Americans- including veterans- from homelessness through a $1.5 billion investment to prevent and end homelessness.

This investment in the new Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program is a major transformation of HUD's homelessness work. It expands our efforts as an agency to those facing homelessness- prevention- as well as to those who are already on the streets. Homeless veterans will be directly impacted by HPRP, and we encourage communities across the country to use this new program as a tool to assist veterans who are in danger of becoming homeless. This Recovery Act investment is part of our larger goal as an agency to address the full range of needs of the broader homeless population, especially families, that has emerged from the housing and economic crises.

Since prevention is the critical component of our newest initiatives on homelessness, I'm thrilled that the 2009 budget provides $10 million for HUD to conduct a demonstration program on the prevention of homelessness among our country's veterans. We will coordinate directly with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Labor to carry out this demonstration. We look forward to assisting veterans to access mainstream assistance programs, including employment assistance. I believe it is crucial that our programs like Section 8 and public housing begin to seek creative and innovative ways to address the needs of veterans, and other special populations, without special set asides, and I am confident that this demonstration will help spur those efforts.

Let me also mention our ongoing efforts to assist our country's servicemen and women through the HUD Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program, HUD-VASH.

In partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs, HUD-VASH couples Housing Choice Vouchers with VA case management, health care, and other supportive services. As of April 30th, 2009, HUD-VASH has helped 9,262 veterans enter case management, 8,611 veterans have been referred to the PHA for voucher assistance, and over 7,000 vouchers have been issued.

I want to acknowledge that lots of great work is being done at HUD to support our veterans across all of our programs that provide housing and services for homeless individuals and families, including homeless veterans. Through the Continuum of Care planning process initiated and required by HUD, communities address the needs of homeless persons and must include organizations and programs that represent the needs of homeless veterans.

I'm proud to say that in 2008, HUD awarded over $1.4 billion to over 6,000 programs that serve the homeless population, including hundreds that explicitly serve homeless veterans. I'm confident that through HUD's ongoing programs and new homelessness initiatives through the Recovery Act, we will be able to prevent homelessness for many veterans, and where that is not possible, provide the support they need to rapidly move them from homelessness to a safe, decent, and affordable place to call home.

Finally today, we are very lucky to be joined by guests who have been longtime partners with HUD in our efforts to support and remember our servicemen and women.

We're very grateful to have with us today: Gregory Bresser, the executive director of the Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation; Matthew Dailey who is here on behalf of Richard Schneider from the Non-Commissioned Officers Association; David Coker, the president of the Fisher House; John Gonsalves, the president and founder of Homes for Our Troops; and Ted Shpak, the national director of Rolling Thunder. We appreciate your efforts on behalf of our country's veterans and we look forward to continue working closely with all of you.

With our nation at war and thousands of our fellow Americans overseas, I call on the HUD community to come together today- and throughout the holiday weekend- in remembrance and in gratitude. As we celebrate this Memorial Day 2009, we say to our fallen: we miss you, we love you, and we thank you for giving the ultimate sacrifice in service of our great nation.

Thank you.


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