15th Anniversary Celebration
for Neighborhood Housing Services
of Southern Nevada

SATURDAY, MAY 19, 2007

Thank you, Brian (Sagert). And Brian, thank you for all your fine work. Leadership starts at the top, and you have provided visionary leadership. I personally want to congratulate you for all of your efforts.

And I want to thank the many sponsors of this gala for your support. Your generosity made tonight possible.

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Thanks for including me. This is a great night. All of you must be proud, and pleased, and a bit astonished. In 1992, who would have thought we would be here tonight? Who would have foreseen the struggles and the achievements of the last 15 years?

But you did it!!! And you did it through cooperation, as a community, with love and respect for those you serve.

This milestone is measured in service, for this organization has been a steadfast neighbor. I don't merely mean "neighbor" in terms of location. I mean you have been a good "neighbor"...a friend, an advocate, a counselor, a helping-hand to those who need to get on their feet, and a patient, persistent, innovative problem-solver.

Yes, this is a remarkable organization with a profound legacy. And the people of Southern Nevada have learned that you are a force for good, a powerful voice of reason.

One person told me that you aren't an organization "to be messed with"!!!

Well, you are on a mission, with the highest calling. You have made a noticeable difference. The individuals who make up the team - the staff and supporters of Neighborhood Housing Services of Southern Nevada - have worked overtime...and even over-overtime...over the years. And the community is a better place because of your presence.

I think that is what we celebrate tonight.

Affordable housing is an essential - vital - part of every large community. Our cities cannot simply become the residence of the rich. A great city is a mixture of socio-economic classes and income levels, a place for all people.

So we need affordable housing. We must be there for the teachers, firefighters, and policemen...as well as the seniors struggling on a fixed pension, people confronting a severe disability, or those that have simply run into hard times.

And when qualifying people come to us, the housing must be safe, secure, healthy, inspirational, and motivational. It must be a good place to live, run by people who are competent, caring, and compassionate. It must be a home, not just four walls and strangers.

You know, as the world gets smaller and populations grow, I have noticed that people get lonelier and often feel isolated. In affordable housing, I want loneliness to disappear with every smile and every greeting. We must hear the cry of the human heart, and respond with our best efforts. We must never lose our humanity, our empathy, our understanding, or our kindness.

I think about that often.

Affordable housing has been called "the soul of a city." I know some of you may just think that is a fancy phrase for speeches, and not the real world. But I think there is something to that comment: "the soul of the city." And it should be true! A city without affordable housing has lost its soul. And as our cities become more gentrified, more expensive, with higher housing costs and with less land for building homes, affordable housing has suffered. Affordable housing has been squeezed. Sometimes it has been eliminated, a victim to economics and scarcity. And those who lose their housing are shown the door, with no place to go. Affordable housing must be there for short-term assistance, and for those in more long-term situations. We will always need it.

We must remain steadfast in protecting affordable housing. In fact, given the number of people who could benefit, we must look for every means to expand it, within financial realities.

Yesterday I visited the Harmon Pines facility. It is an impressive effort. Within the year, Harmon Pines will become 100 units of affordable housing for seniors. I am very pleased that the city, the state, and the Bureau of Land Management have been able to work together. It shows what cooperation can do.
A second site is also under construction.

It is my hope that we will see many more affordable housing facilities here in the next decade.

I want to thank Senator Ensign, who as a congressman many years ago engineered the legislation that made Harmon Pines possible.

And I want to thank Senator Reid for his constant support for the project.

Tonight, as we celebrate the past, we look to the future.

Our goals should be grounded in the yearnings of the human spirit, bringing out the best in each other, empowering our citizens. Well, we want people to eventually earn enough to move out of affordable rental housing and maybe even buy a home. We should promote and strongly encourage upward mobility. It is part of the American Dream. It represents freedom and economic empowerment.

But I know we must have affordable housing for those in need. And I pledge my department's continued commitment to meet those needs.

The largest component of HUD's budget is to promote decent, safe, and affordable housing. We view affordable housing as our legislative mission and our constitutional calling.

We are pleased to provide the Housing Choice Voucher Program, which is helping more than two million people with housing subsidies.

The President and I are also requesting funding for the Community Development Block Grant, which this year will bring more than $6.4 million to Clark County and another $2.7 million for the State of Nevada.

We have asked Congress to increase funding for the HOME Investment Partnerships Program. You know, since 1992, more than 600 communities have completed almost 762,000 affordable housing units, including more than 319,000 for new homebuyers. More than 160,000 tenants have received direct rental assistance. So the President has asked for a record amount (almost $2 billion) to continue this effort. This year, HOME funding for Clark County will be $3 million, and 11.3 million total for the State of Nevada.

We must do all of this and more.

Affordable housing is America's commitment to low-income citizens. It is where we come together as a nation to provide for our less fortunate neighbors. It is a place where people can grow up and grow old - together.

Tonight we honor that commitment. Affordable housing is a place where we find ourselves...see ourselves...come to know who we are and understand our purpose in this life. We come into this life with nothing and leave with nothing. What matters is what we do. In other words, we find the meaning of our humanity by helping others. We see a reflection of ourselves in the faces we encounter every day.

Thank you, again, and congratulations.


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