Prepared Remarks of Secretary Shaun Donovan During the US Conference of Mayors Conference Call on the Release of the Conference of Mayors' Hunger and Homelessness Survey

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Thank you. With the cold weather and holiday season upon us, I'm pleased to have the opportunity today to join everyone to discuss the findings of the Conference of Mayors' Hunger and Homelessness Survey.

This evening, I will be participating in a memorial service for homeless men and women who lost their lives over the past year -- reminding us again of the important work our cities are doing tackling homelessness on the frontlines.

I want to thank each of the 27 cities for participating in this survey, as well as the Conference of Mayors. In doing this survey these last two decades, you have helped us understand what was happening around the nation and prodded us to action.

And this year, by providing critical data on families with children and veterans who are homeless, among others, you are helping us target vulnerable populations we know we can help -- populations we need to do better by.

As always, you remind us that the fight to prevent and end homelessness is waged and won at the local level.

And 2010 has been a watershed year in that fight. As always, this report is not only helping us understand the state of homelessness in our communities, but also how they are responding.

Indeed, not only does it show that homelessness is ticking back up in the wake of the economic crisis--echoing data we've seen about the increase in family homelessness--it also reveals how communities are using new tools like the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program--or "HPRP"--to meet that increased need.

Since it was launched in early 2009 as part of President Obama's Recovery Act, HPRP has prevented or ended homelessness for more than three-quarters-of-a-million people.

Just as importantly, HPRP is "fundamentally changing" the way cities respond to homelessness as the Conference of Mayors said in last year's report.

And with this year's new report, we see how it is changing.

For instance, Cleveland's Continuum of Care program is using HPRP funds to create a "Central Intake" system that provides more appropriate services to those entering the shelter system -- helping the community not only manage the available beds and services more effectively but also ensure that households are finding permanent housing as quickly as possible.

Of course, what has made 2010 a defining moment isn't simply that communities are using new tools to fight homelessness, but that that this was all happening in the context of Opening Doors -- the first ever federal strategic plan to end homelessness, which I was proud to present to President Obama in June.

The culmination of a decade of bipartisan progress at the federal, state and local levels, Opening Doors marshals the collective force of 19 separate agencies to this cause -- reflecting President Obama's belief that homelessness isn't simply a noble fight, but a problem we can solve.

And I want to thank Barbara Poppe with the Interagency Council for helping bring this visionary plan to fruition.

The Conference of Mayors' report shows how Opening Doors is already making a difference on the ground.

The Greater Kansas City area is developing a "Housing Sustainability Plan" that integrates many of the strategies in Opening Doors -- forging partnerships at the metropolitan level among not just governments, but local businesses and nonprofits, philanthropies, and the investment community.

Opening Doors is also encouraging communities to use mainstream housing tools to prevent homelessness.

For instance, Nashville is using some of its Neighborhood Stabilization grants to provide rental housing to those that have lost their homes to foreclosure.

As Boston works to prevent evictions in foreclosed properties it hopes to purchase, the City is also utilizing our "First Look" partnership with the National Community Stabilization Trust -- negotiating with some of the largest lenders in the country to allow communities and non-profits to get the first crack at REO properties before tenants are even evicted.

Obviously, these are but a few examples. We all know that the fight to end homelessness is just beginning -- and this report lets us know where gaps still remain.

With our "Point in Time" count of homelessness and the release of our Annual Homeless Assessment Report just around the corner, we at HUD are committed to having the clearest understanding possible of the scope and breadth of homelessness -- and to measuring our progress toward ending it.

But by continuing to work across the aisle, on a bipartisan basis to build on the remarkable innovations that have been demonstrated at the local level and in cities nationwide, we are making progress.

Indeed, that is why I believe with partners like the Conference of Mayors we can provide everyone--from the most capable to the most vulnerable--the opportunity to reach their full potential.

This holiday season, with so many depending on us--families, children, veterans who have given so much to this great nation of ours--I can think of no greater gift to give or receive than for all of us to play a part in helping realize that vision for our country.

That is what this effort is fundamentally about -- and with that, I'd be happy to take questions.


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