Prepared Remarks of Secretary Shaun Donovan for the Continuum of Care Homelessness Grant Conference Call

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Thank you all. I'm pleased to join HUD's Assistant Secretary of Community Planning and Development, Mercedes Marquez, the Executive Director of the US Interagency Council on Homelessness, Barbara Poppe, and all of you as we announce $1.4 billion to help nearly 7,000 local programs serving our nation's homeless men, women and children.

These funds arrive at an important moment -- following what was for anyone who has worked to end homelessness a watershed year in that fight.

With the Recovery Act's Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program--or HPRP--we have now prevented or ended homelessness for more than three-quarters-of-a-million people. 

Just as importantly, according to the US Conference of Mayors, HPRP is "fundamentally changing" the way communities respond to homelessness.

And I want to thank Mercedes for her remarkable leadership to make that possible.

Because communities aren't using these new tools to fight homelessness alone. Indeed, with Opening Doors--the first ever federal strategic plan to end homelessness, which we presented to President Obama in June--the Federal government is now a full partner in that fight.

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 with the leadership of partners like Barbara Poppe and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, we will solve it.

As important as each of these efforts are, the $1.4 billion in grants we announce today will provide the foundation we need for this strategy to make the biggest impact on the ground. 

These grants support a broad range of housing and services--what we call the "continuum of care"--from street outreach and safe havens for those with serious health conditions and mental transitional and permanent homes that families need to start rebuilding their lives.

Nearly two thirds of the funding we are announcing today provides transitional and permanent housing. The remainder provides needed supportive services -- from case management to job training to drug and alcohol treatment.

Most exciting of all is that, going forward, communities will have increased flexibility, through the HEARTH Act President Obama signed into law, to determine how best to use these funds to respond to homelessness -- incorporating the successes and lessons of the last two years into this fight. 

Lastly, let me simply say that this announcement comes just one week before thousands of volunteers in virtually every city and county in America conduct a national one-night count of homeless persons and families.

Our most recent data, collected by volunteers throughout the nation, found that 643,000 people were homeless during a given night in January 2009. Over the course of that year, about 2 million people were living on the streets, or in emergency or transitional housing programs. 

We are urging people to participate in their community's count--and directing them to to find out more--because understanding the extent of the problem is essential to solving it, particularly given today's tight fiscal environment. 

Indeed, over the last decade, we've seen that when localities combine housing with supportive services the results are fewer ambulance and police calls, fewer visits to the emergency room, and--just as importantly--real savings for taxpayers.  

Our job now is to bring this proven model to every community in the country. 

With the commitment of President Obama and members of both parties, with local leadership from around the country, and with these funds, we're confident we can -- and will.

And with that, I'd be happy to pass this off to Mercedes. Thank you.


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