Prepared Remarks of Secretary Shaun Donovan at a Salt Lake City Homelessness Event

Palmer Court, Salt Lake City, Utah
Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Thank you, Matt, for that introduction and your remarkable work on behalf of Utah's homeless families.

And I'd like to thank Governor Herbert for his commitment to ending homelessness in this state.

When we sat together at the National Governors' Association meeting in February, we spent a lot of time discussing our shared commitment to ending homelessness, especially veterans' homelessness. 

This is an issue that knows no partisan divide and is one where all Americans can work together. I'm proud to partner with the Governor on our shared commitment to ending homelessness.

So it's great to be in Salt Lake City -- a community on the cutting edge when it comes to housing our most vulnerable families.

With facilities like Palmer Court, which also offers a Head Start program for children and an Employment Pilot to help increase the incomes of the families who live here, you are building on a model that works. 

A model that's proven that homelessness isn't simply a "noble fight" -- but a problem we can solve.

Indeed, by connecting housing with supportive services, communities across the country have reduced the number of chronically homeless people by more than a third inside of five years -- all while saving money for the taxpayer. 

Here in Utah, you've been able to reduce chronic homelessness by 26 percent over the last year alone -- and an extraordinary 69 percent since 2005. 

Now, that's smart government. So, give yourselves a round of applause.

I'm here today because the Obama Administration is building on the model communities like this have provided.

Indeed, with the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing program funded through President Obama's Recovery Act, local partners like Salt Lake City have helped save nearly 8,000 people from homelessness in Utah and nearly 900,000 people nationwide.

And as Mark Johnston, who oversees HUD's homelessness programs and is a Salt Lake native, has told me, you've used those funds in a uniquely strategic and unified way.   

It was that kind of success that allowed us to put together Opening Doors, the first strategic plan in history that commits the Federal government not to reducing homelessness, or to managing it, but to ending it.

Through Opening Doors, we will work to end homelessness among families and children by 2020 -- and chronic and veteran homelessness by 2015.

Indeed, as Monday's Memorial Day observation reminds us, while there is no greater calling than honoring our country's fallen -- there is no greater shame than the fact that so many of our heroes are living on our streets and in our shelters.

Today, one out of every six men and women in our shelters has worn our country's uniform.

That is wrong -- and with President Obama's leadership, it's going to end.

To keep that commitment, HUD and the Department of Veterans' Affairs forged the innovative HUD-VASH partnership, which combines our Housing Choice Voucher rental assistance with the VA's case management and clinical services.

Through HUD-VASH, we've housed nearly 20 times as many veterans in the last two years as we had before.

The solid body of evidence that permanent supportive housing ends homelessness and saves money is why we were able to request funding for over 11,000 additional HUD-VASH vouchers--even in a tough budget environment--and a record level of funding for Continuum of Care grants, which communities like Salt Lake use to prevent homelessness, and provide rapid re-housing and new permanent supportive housing.

For our veterans, this request comes not a moment too soon, as increasing numbers of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are already living on our streets.

So, it's an ambitious agenda -- and there are plenty of people who say we can't afford to be that ambitious.

But I believe we can't afford not to -- not when we have veterans returning from two wars.

And not when we still have more homeless Vietnam-era veterans than troops who died in the war itself.

As President Obama has said, "until we reach a day when not a single veteran sleeps on our nation's streets, our work remains unfinished."

Thanks to the efforts of communities like Salt Lake City, we already know that we can complete that work.

Working together, with your partnership, I know that we will. Thank you.


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