Prepared Remarks of Secretary Shaun Donovan During a Conference Call Announcing Continuum of Care Homelessness Grants

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thank you all. I'm proud to announce $216 million to help nearly 700 new local programs serving our nation's homeless men, women and children.

These funds arrive at an important moment -- in the midst of what anyone who has worked to end homelessness would agree has been a remarkable period of progress.

With the Recovery Act's Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program--or HPRP--we have now prevented or ended homelessness for nearly 900,000 people -- "fundamentally changing" the way communities respond to homelessness, according to the US Conference of Mayors.

And with Opening Doors--the first ever federal strategic plan to end homelessness released last June--the Federal government is now a full partner with our communities 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 just a noble fight. It's a problem we can solve.

And with partners at both the federal and local levels, we will solve it.

And with the $216 million in grants we announce today, we will continue to provide the foundation needed 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.

And they come at an important time. HUD's Worst Case Housing Needs survey recently found that from 2007 to 2009, the number of households who paid more than half their monthly income for rent, lived in severely substandard housing, or both grew by nearly 1.2 million, or 20 percent.

That's the biggest jump in the history of the survey.

We've also seen that homelessness isn't just a crisis that affects urban areas.

Indeed, in the wake of the economic crisis, the number of homeless families in rural America has increased dramatically -- in large part because rural areas often have fewer shelters and resources for people to turn to in a time of need.

According to the Council for Affordable and Rural Housing, most families in rural places who would otherwise be on the street live in cars, doubled up, or in grossly substandard housing.

That's why we made sure a record amount of funding will go to 87 programs in America's rural communities that had never been funded before -- $16.4 million in all.

Lastly, let me say that the scale of this investment is unprecedented. Indeed, today's grants, combined with the $1.4 billion we announced in January, represent the most homelessness assistance awarded in HUD's 40-plus history.

That's on top of the 25 percent increase we are requesting in our FY2012 budget for homeless programs.

Some might ask whether we can afford such a historic investment at a moment in which the President has been clear we need to make tough choices to reduce our nation's deficit.

But over the last decade, when localities have combined housing with supportive services, we haven't just seen fewer ambulance and police calls and fewer visits to the emergency room.

Just as importantly, we've seen real savings for taxpayers.

That tells us that preventing and ending homelessness isn't about "big government" -- but smart government.

It's about doing what works.

Our job now is to bring this proven model to every community in the country so that they can.

With the commitment of President Obama and members of both parties, with local leadership from around the country, and with these funds, I have no doubt we will. Thank you.


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