Prepared Remarks of Secretary Shaun Donovan on a Conference Call Announcing the 2010 Annual Homeless Assessment Report

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Thank you all. I'm pleased to join Barbara Poppe with the US Interagency Council on Homelessness, and all of you as we announce the results of HUD's Annual Homeless Report -- results that demonstrate the progress the Obama Administration has made in preventing and ending homelessness since the recession began.

The report comes at an important moment. And as the Administration works to implement Opening Doors, the first strategic plan in history committed to ending homelessness, it gives us critical insight into how new tools are changing the way the Federal government and communities work together to respond to the problem -- and the results they are producing.

Indeed, of all the important findings in this report, perhaps the most important is that homelessness remained virtually flat in 2010.

Think about it: even at the height of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, homelessness barely ticked up.

And with this report, we know why.

First, because we made an unprecedented commitment to permanent supportive housing to end homelessness for people with severe disabilities and long homeless histories -- those we refer to as "chronically homeless."

Let's not forget that it was localities working in collaboration with the Federal government to connect housing with supportive services which reduced the number of chronically homeless people by more than a third inside of five years and saved money for the taxpayer.

Indeed, since 2007 the number of beds for permanent supportive housing has increased by 34 percent.

Building upon this bipartisan success was one of the primary focuses of the Obama Administration when we took office.

One of the most important tools we had at our disposal was the HUD-VASH partnership to house homeless veterans.

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

And with yesterday's joint announcement from HUD and VA of $5.4 million that will provide permanent housing and case management for nearly 700 homeless veterans, we're building on that success and keeping our promise to our nation's heroes.

But not all those who are homeless have serious long-term needs. Indeed, according to our report more than 60 percent of homeless people were homeless for less than a month.

That's why the second component of our strategy to end homelessness was through rapid re-housing -- and that's precisely why the Recovery Act's Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program--or HPRP--was so important.

To be sure, HPRP has helped homeless men and women transition into permanent supportive housing -- for instance, by providing something as simple as a security deposit to help a veteran move into a HUD-VASH supported unit.

But for the vast majority of the nearly 700,000 people assisted by HPRP in 2009, it was the program's ability to help them find or stabilize housing arrangements quickly and effectively that made the difference.

Indeed, today's report shows that fully 94 percent of people assisted by HPRP successfully found permanent housing. That's an impressive record.

Finally, HPRP introduced a new federal commitment helping people avoid homelessness in the first place. According to the report, more than three out of every four people assisted by HPRP received homelessness prevention services.

And so, if it weren't clear already, it is now: absent these tools, we would have a lot more homeless people living on our streets today.

Look at a state like Utah, which over the last few years has invested in permanent supportive housing and targeted their HPRP resources to rapid re-housing.

I was in Salt Lake City earlier this month and saw these results for myself when Governor Herbert and I visited Palmer Court, a permanent supportive housing facility for the chronically homeless.

Because of this commitment, Utah has reduced chronic homelessness by an astounding 26 percent over the last year -- and nearly 70 percent since 2005.

That's smart government.

States like Utah remind us that ending homelessness isn't just a noble fight -- it's a problem we can solve.

And by providing localities with the tools they need to respond to homelessness not with one-size-fits-all rules--but in a way that works for their citizens and their communities, to help them meet their challenges--we will solve it.

That's why I'm so pleased to announce this report today -- and why I'm so happy to work with a remarkable partner in that fight -- Barbara Poppe. Thank you.


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