Remarks of Secretary Shaun Donovan at the Local Initiatives Support Corporation/Police Foundation "Safe Streets, Strong Communities" Symposium

Wednesday, January 15, 2014
New York, NY

As prepared for delivery

Thank you to my friend, Michael (Rubinger), for that kind introduction and for your remarkable work over the years.

Thank you to another good friend, my colleague in the Cabinet, Attorney General Holder for your leadership at the Department of Justice. I'd also like to thank Darren Walker and the Ford Foundation for hosting us this afternoon.  

And of course, I want to thank today's organizers. The Police Foundation, which, for decades, has done great work to improve and enhance public safety.

And LISC, which I have been proud to work with for many years:

o from my time as a Commissioner here in New York City - where we collaborated on initiatives like the Acquisition Fund to create and preserve affordable housing;

o to my current role as HUD Secretary during which LISC has been a strong partner in efforts like our Section 4 and Neighborhood Stabilization programs, bringing new hope to communities.

In fact, I was thrilled to see that Section 4 did well in the budget that is advancing in Congress, receiving $35 million.  As the success of your Community Safety Initiative shows, these dollars make a tremendous difference on the ground. 

I thank you for making your voices heard throughout the budget process. And I am honored to be here at this symposium to build on this work with such a distinguished group of leaders.  

Young People Deserve Better

We come together today for children like Terrell Mayes, Jr. 

Just 3 years old in 2011, Terrell was with his family in Minneapolis on the day after Christmas.
They were eating dinner when shots rang out in their neighborhood. Because this was a common occurrence, the family knew exactly what to do and began moving up the stairs to the closet they usually hide in.

It was so normal to them that little Terrell took his plate of spaghetti with him. On his way up the stairs, he was hit by a stray bullet and died the next day. Terrell Mayes deserved better. 

We come together today for young people like Hadiya Pendleton. Last year, a week after performing at the President's inaugural festivities, the 15-year-old student was back home in Chicago

One afternoon—shortly after finishing her final exams—she was hanging out with her volleyball teammates in a park when a man mistook the group for a rival gang and fired shots at them.

She was struck in the back and killed. Hadiya Pendleton deserved better.  

We come together today because stories like this are far too common in communities across the nation - young people who have done nothing wrong except being born in the wrong zip code. 

It's simply wrong that in too many neighborhoods across this country—no matter how hard a child or their parents work— the single biggest predictor of their life outcomes, even their lifespan, is where they grow up.

And when young people are denied a fair chance to grow and thrive, not only do they and their families lose, but our nation loses. Each year, children growing up in poverty cost our nation half a trillion dollars in lost wages, productivity and other costs, roughly the equivalent of 4 percent of GDP.

And the single biggest cost is the lost potential because, if given a fair chance, these young people could be the next police officers, teachers, community leaders and entrepreneurs.

Young people deserve better, which is why our nation has a duty to turn neighborhoods with problems into neighborhoods with promise. 

Comprehensive Approach to Community Development

Obviously, as this audience knows, good policing plays a big part in this work. And some outside this room may wonder what the HUD Secretary is doing at a forum focused on public safety.

But, I know nobody here is asking this question. We all recognize that the challenges facing our communities are connected to each other. Distressed and abandoned housing units are often havens for crime - and contribute to public safety concerns. 

In turn, no housing can succeed if it is surrounded by unsafe streets. In fact, HUD's Moving to Opportunity study found that one the biggest benefits of living in a safer, lower-poverty neighborhood is improvements in mental health - because of the sense of safety and optimism that families find in their new surroundings.

So it's clear that we need to work together—at all levels, and from all sectors—to take a comprehensive approach to community development. Unfortunately, for a long time, this wasn't something that the federal government understood.

With the old Urban Renewal approach, Washington would swoop into communities and plan for them rather than with them, often addressing problems one-by-one. So when it came to housing, developments would be built - but they were often surrounded by unsafe streets, bad schools, limited transportation options and few jobs.

Clearly, this was a recipe for failure. However, as Eric recalled, while all this was happening, there were beacons of hope. Specifically a third sector of institutions, like LISC, were thinking and planning in a different way. 

Community development corporations, foundations, non-profits and intermediaries were identifying not only the problems on the ground, but also the assets they could cultivate. 

They were reimaging how neighborhood residents and law enforcement could partner together to combat crime through community policing. They were rethinking the design of affordable housing as part of the safe space movement to enhance the safety of communities rather than put our kids in peril.  

This is work that the President, and all of us in the Administration, have long valued.
That is why—through efforts like the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative the Attorney General mentioned—we've taken a different approach by working with local partners to support their vision for change.

And we are achieving great results. Case in point is our Choice Neighborhoods effort, a competitive program that gives local leaders the flexibility to transform their neighborhoods in their own unique way. 

Building off the HOPE VI public housing revitalization program, Choice expands the activities that resources can be targeted towards to include not just all forms of housing, but also neighborhood amenities. 

This work is making a profound difference in cities like the one featured in the video we just saw: Boston. In 2011, Boston was one of the first five cities to receive Choice Neighborhoods implementation grant dollars.

A wide-variety of local partners—including LISC, which was deeply involved—developed a comprehensive plan to transform the Dorchester neighborhood and, last year, it became the first deal to close.

I visited Boston last October to help mark this milestone.

As a New York Yankees fan, it was tough because, at the time, the Boston Red Sox were in the World Series while my team was sitting at home. 

But as HUD Secretary, it was moving to see all these plans coming to life, not only new housing units, but also the redevelopment of a factory which will create 100 new jobs and even the creation a Wi-Fi system for the community.

And the federal government as a whole is committed to supporting this work.

In addition to HUD's efforts:

o the Department of Justice contributed $400,000 to enhance public safety; and
o the Department of Education is working with partners to give children in the area the best possible start in life.  

And this is just one example.  

In another of our first Choice Neighborhoods, non-profits and the City are collaborating with the University of Chicago on the "Safe Passage" program, placing University police officers in key locations to ensure kids get to school and back home safely.  

In total, the partnerships created through Choice Neighborhoods are driving change and expanding opportunity. And at a time of tough budget choices, partners like LISC are investing $8 for every $1 HUD brings.   

As you just heard from Attorney General Holder, the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program is doing the same with a similar approach, as is the Department of Education's Promise Neighborhoods effort.

Imagine the kind of impact we could make if we took these initiatives and coordinated them in the most distressed communities. Then imagine if we gave these communities a competitive advantage for roughly 20 more federal neighborhood-oriented initiatives … a top notch team from all the key federal agencies … technical assistance … and VISTA volunteers.

That's exactly what's happening with Promise Zones, which the Attorney General just talked about it. Eric and I were in the White House last week when the President announced the first five Promise Zones and it was very moving to see the President so passionate about this work. 

He said the reason why is because he isn't that different from the young people living in poverty today. There was a period of time in his life where he was, in his words, "goofing off."

The only difference was that his environment was more forgiving than others. If he screwed up, the consequences weren't that great. And it simply isn't right that so many young people are getting lost just because of where they live.   

We've got to give every child a fair shot. And to make this happen, as the President said, "we've got to believe in this work. We can't just give lip service to it."

That's what makes Promise Zones so important. It represents more than just another government project or press release. It represents something that families in these distressed communities haven't had in a long time: hope.

Hope that they can obtain quality, affordable housing. Hope that they can get a good job that pays decent wages. 

Hope that their children can get the education they deserve. Hope that they and their children can get to these jobs and schools free from fear and crime. 

In short, hope that they will finally have access to opportunity so that they can lift themselves up and better their lives.


These are the kinds of outcomes that can be achieved through partnership. That's what makes forums like this so important. It provides all of us with the opportunity to identify new ways to work together with a bottom up, comprehensive approach to community development. 

I deeply value the role that LISC, its private sector partners like MetLife, law enforcement officials and other local innovators play in this effort - and pledge to keep working with Attorney General Holder, and my colleagues in the Administration, to do all we can to support you.

In turn, I ask that you continue to support efforts like Promise Zones to solve the big challenges facing communities today.

We can't let there be another Hadiya or Terrell. Our children deserve better. They deserve a fair chance in life.

They deserve to have their futures determined not by their zip code, but by their talent and work ethic. 

Let's work together to give them the opportunity they deserve. This is one of the defining challenges of our time.

Let's answer the call for action.

Thank you. 


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