Prepared Remarks for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan at the U.S. Conference of Mayors Hunger and Homelessness Survey Press Conference

Washington, D.C.
Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

I'm pleased to have the opportunity today to join with Mayors Stultz and Johnson, Tom Cochran, and Deputy Undersecretary Thornton, to discuss the findings of the Conference of Mayors' Hunger and Homelessness Survey.

I want to thank the more than two dozen cities on the frontlines in tackling homelessness who took part in this survey, as well as the Conference of Mayors for its leadership.

While these are difficult times for everyone - it's clear no one is feeling the force of this economic crisis more powerfully than those who are homeless or facing the prospect of homelessness.

Indeed, one of the most tragic consequences of our housing and economic crisis is those who fall into homelessness as a result - whether through foreclosures, evictions, layoffs, or other financial problems.

And this study reveals—as did HUD's own Annual Homeless Assessment Report which we released in July—that the number of homeless families is on the rise.

With the increase in rural and suburban family homelessness we found, we see that homelessness is not simply an urban problem, but one every kind of community struggles with.

As diverse as our homeless population is, there is one thing that everyone who is homeless shares: a lack of housing they can afford. And as this study finds, high housing costs often lead families to cut back on necessities like food.

That's why today I want to reiterate very clearly what I've said before - that the Federal government is getting back into the business of affordable rental housing.

You only need look at the $14 billion HUD is investing in our communities through the Recovery Act to see that we are - from our $2 billion investment in full funding of Project-Based Section 8 to our $2.25 billion injection of funding to stabilize affordable housing developments financed by the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit.

Our FY 2010 budget builds on these investments - increasing funding for the Housing Choice Voucher program and capitalizing the National Housing Trust Fund.

When I was New York City's Housing Commissioner, we implemented the largest local affordable housing plan in American history - to create or preserve 165,000 affordable homes for half a million people, more than the entire city of Atlanta.

That's the kind of scale we need nationally - and realizing it starts with the National Housing Trust Fund.

During the early 1980s, a part of our response to the rapid growth in homelessness was to build emergency shelters. Today, our challenge is to do everything in our power to make sure families spend as little time as possible in those shelters.

And we have a lot of new tools to help us do that - from the recently passed HEARTH Act, which consolidated HUD's homeless funding streams and increased emphasis on homeless prevention, to the $1.5 billion we dedicated in the President's Recovery Act to the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program.

I'm thrilled that the Conference of Mayors' report is already detailing early successes that HPRP is having across the country - with 18 cities reporting that HPRP is fundamentally changing the way their communities provide services to people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

In communities like Alameda County, California, HPRP has helped create the Priority Home Partnership - with eight Housing Resource Centers providing coordinated prevention and re-housing assistance, and a central 211 phone line.

And as the chair of the Interagency Council on Homelessness, we are committed to taking these approaches to scale across the Federal government - developing and implementing a federal strategy to prevent and end homelessness that strengthens existing partnerships such as HUD-VASH to help homeless veterans and forges new partnerships between agencies like HUD and HHS.

And I'm excited we have our new executive director, Barbara Poppe, aboard to lead the way.

Of course, in the last decade, we've made great progress in developing new approaches to tackle chronic homelessness. By improving the "technology" of combining housing and supportive services, we've "moved the needle" on chronic homelessness, reducing the number of chronically ill, long-term homeless by nearly a third.

And despite the economic crisis, the data being presented here today demonstrates that the number of chronically homeless individuals has remained stable and even declined.
The fact is, we have now proven that we can house anyone. Our job now is to house everyone - to prevent and end homelessness. All homelessness.

Each of these tools is about the same thing: building on the remarkable innovations that have been demonstrated at the local level and in cities nationwide to provide everyone—from the most capable to the most vulnerable—the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Working with the Conference of Mayors, my colleagues from across the Administration, and all our partners on the ground, we can make that vision a reality - and will. Thank you.

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