National Alliance to End Homelessness
Remarks prepared for delivery
by Secretary Mel Martinez
Friday, July 19, 2002
Thank you for having me back. I appreciate your welcome, and I
am especially pleased to be introduced by Philip Mangano. I am so
happy that Philip has joined this Administration and that the entire
country will benefit from his lifetime of expertise and his passion
for the issue of homelessness.
A year ago, I talked to you about the Bush Administration's commitment
to seriously tackle the challenge of homelessness. I made several
promises and commitments.
I pledged more cooperation between the many federal departments
serving homeless men, women, and families.
I told you we would reach out to the providers of homeless services
on the grassroots level and encourage more of you to partner with
And I embraced the goal put forward by the Alliance of working
toward ending chronic homelessness within the next ten years.
You greeted me warmly and I appreciated your support. I knew you
were eager to help us succeed, but I also understood that we were
going to have to follow through on our promises.
Well, that is exactly what we are doing, and I am here today with
a progress report.
We are seeing many signs of progress in the fight against homelessness.
The signs are not yet found in the numbers, because too many Americans
remain homeless. But I find tremendous encouragement in our shared
commitment and focus, the enthusiastic response to our efforts,
and the momentum our work is generating across the country.
This Administration is committed to combating homelessness. President
Bush took the first, and most critical, step by reactivating the
Interagency Council on Homelessness and naming Philip Mangano as
its Executive Director. I can think of no clearer message that we
are serious about taking on the homeless challenge.
The full Council and its 18 member agencies met yesterday for the
first time in six years. I think all of us who were there came away
feeling that we have been given a remarkable opportunity to fundamentally
change the way this nation perceives - and deals with - the issue
of homelessness. And we have been empowered to get the job done.
The Millennial Housing Commission - the bi-partisan commission
set up by Congress to study the federal role in housing - has endorsed
our call to end chronic homelessness.
Many of the major newspapers across the country have written editorials
supporting the Administration. We even received some praise from
the New York Times. Referring to our goal to end chronic
homelessness, the Times wrote, "This may seem a surprising
goal for a Republican administration
The good news is that
it is not rhetoric."
Major cities such as New York and Philadelphia are working toward
ending chronic homelessness in ten years. In Chicago, Mayor Daley
is teaming up with advocates and providers. In Los Angeles, leaders
are developing a ten-year plan.
By committing this Administration and this nation to meeting the
challenge of homelessness, we are generating the kind of momentum
that has not been felt since July 22, 1987 - almost fifteen years
ago to the day. That was the date the McKinney Homeless Assistance
Act became law and pledged a federal commitment to those who are
A decade and a half later, despite the substantial investment of
resources called for by McKinney-Vento, homelessness remains. The
dollars Washington has devoted to solutions have made us more effective
in managing homelessness, but no more effective in preventing individuals
from becoming homeless.
The Bush Administration offered more than $1 billion in grants
this year through HUD alone to providers of homeless services. This
represents the largest amount of homeless assistance in our nation's
history. We are funding more than 2,500 individual projects.
The researchers tell us that 40,000 assistance programs on the
local, state, and federal levels serve homeless people in this country.
Many of these programs are run by agencies and organizations represented
here today - members of the Alliance working in partnership with
us and doing wonderful work in their communities.
Still, this massive commitment has not managed to reduce the level
The data tells us that as many as two and a half million people
experience homelessness in this country every year. And researchers
say that about 10 percent are experiencing chronic homelessness.
Most of the chronically homeless have an addiction or suffer from
a disabling physical or mental condition. They have been continuously
homeless for a year or more. They may get help for a short time,
but they soon fall back to the streets and shelters.
Then there is the other 90 percent. These are typically people
who are propelled into homelessness for a brief time when they hit
a rough spot in life - maybe a family illness or the loss of a job.
Among this group, we are seeing a disturbing increase in the number
of homeless families, young people, and ex-prisoners.
I share your deep concern for every segment of the homeless population.
But I cannot ignore the research, which tells us that the 10 percent
of individuals who experience chronic homelessness consume more
than half of all homeless services. Because they use so many resources,
they need to be a priority in our strategy.
For many years, Washington focused on intervention when it came
to homelessness. The assumption was that intervention was more important
than prevention. So even as federal programs ended homelessness
for thousands of men, women, and families, thousands refilled the
Until now, government was misdiagnosing the condition and prescribing
Today's research tells us that prevention is just as important.
And we have also learned that we need to partner with the states
to ensure that our systems of care, treatment, and incarceration
include exit strategies that prevent individuals from being discharged
By following the research and focusing on ending chronic homelessness,
we will have more resources available to meet the needs of other
Dr. Dennis Culhane of the University of Pennsylvania has studied
this issue in great depth. You heard from him yesterday, and he
also spoke to us at the Interagency Council meeting.
Dr. Culhane told us that the costs associated with placing a homeless
person in permanent supportive housing are essentially the same
as maintaining and managing that person in a state of homelessness.
When they have access to basic services like housing and treatment,
homeless people have fewer acute episodes, and are less likely to
need expensive emergency interventions.
The research makes it clear that our best hope for ending homelessness
of every sort depends on addressing chronic homelessness. We are
setting policy based on that research. We are taking action based
on that policy. Our intent is to free up homeless resources and
ensure access to mainstream programs. In other words, to be smarter
and more compassionate about our investment.
This Administration is taking a holistic approach to homelessness.
We are looking at the entire picture - prevention and intervention
- not just the individual pieces. That means coordinating the efforts
of every federal agency that touches homeless Americans, and doing
a better job of communicating among ourselves.
As I mentioned, the Interagency Council on Homelessness met yesterday.
I serve as Council chairperson. But I was also very pleased that
Veterans' Administration Secretary Principi and Agriculture Secretary
Veneman joined us, along with Deputy Secretaries and administrators
from numerous federal agencies: HHS, Labor, Education, Energy, FEMA,
GSA, Interior, Justice, the Domestic Policy Council, Social Security,
and the White House Office of Management and Budget.
During the meeting, we reaffirmed that this Administration is serious
about helping people climb out of homelessness, and empowering them
to lead the lives they want to be living.
It was a tremendous meeting, and I was energized by the cooperation
The people who came together around that table share a desire to
do something meaningful about the problem of homelessness. They
also share a commitment to change the outcome - to see that by the
time we conclude our service in this Administration, we will have
truly made a difference in the numbers of people who are homeless
Clearly, we are entering an era of unprecedented federal collaboration
in fighting homelessness.
Reactivating the Interagency Council was just the first step in
breaking down the walls between federal agencies. HUD, HHS, and
VA formed a joint task force last year to study - and improve -
the way in which we cooperate to help homeless individuals. We have
made great progress over the past year in building on our strengths
and better defining our roles.
Our goal is to expand our coordination. And so I am announcing
today the first-ever coordinated federal funding between HUD, HHS,
and VA focused specifically on creating and coordinating housing
and services for those who are homeless.
This joint "Notice of Funding Availability" - or NOFA - will outline
the timelines, rules, application requirements, and criteria that
we will use to evaluate grant applications.
The grant funding will total $35 million in the coming fiscal
year - $20 million from HUD, $10 million from HHS, and $5 million
from VA. All funds come from other programs that will now be devoted
to this effort. The funds will be invested in a variety of programs
for families, individuals, and veterans focused on the President's
chronic homelessness initiative.
We anticipate that the formal NOFA announcement will be made sometime
toward the end of this year. So please do not call today!
This joint collaboration on homelessness has never been tried before.
Yet, it makes perfect sense. By consolidating our funding, we are
hoping to create a better way of delivering funds to providers at
the local level, and ultimately, a better way to help move more
families and individuals out of homelessness.
The federal government must also make mainstream assistance programs
more accessible. "Mainstream" programs include Medicaid, food stamps,
and mental health and substance abuse programs that are available
to homeless individuals, but are not necessarily being used by them.
The Administration reached out to the people who administer state
assistance programs by conducting two special training sessions
in the past year. Through these "policy academies," we offer guidance
and technical help on how states can more effectively fight homelessness
with mainstream resources.
In the coming year, we plan to offer every state the opportunity
to attend a policy academy focused on ending chronic homelessness.
By working together, we will make mainstream programs accessible
to more people.
At the same time we focus on chronic homelessness, we cannot ignore
the growing numbers of families who are homeless. Anyone could guess
that homelessness is extremely hard on children, but the research
tells us that the children of homeless individuals are more likely
to become homeless themselves.
We can offer a child a way out of despair and hopelessness by providing
educational opportunities. As part of the President's "No Child
Left Behind" initiative, the Department of Education is creating
a liaison for homeless children in every school district. We will
ensure that these children have equal access to education and the
opportunities that a good education provides. In doing so, we offer
them a path out of homelessness. And this is just one initiative
that will be part of a larger planning process to respond to growing
Too many people released from prison find themselves without homes.
Our commitment to prevention includes a new collaborative effort
headed up by the Department of Justice that will help those reentering
society after incarceration.
Attorney General Ashcroft announced just this week that 49 states,
the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands will share $100
million in grant funds through the new Serious and Violent Offender
Reentry Initiative. The Initiative will help states create reentry
strategies that reduce homelessness among former prisoners.
The nation's faith-based organizations are on the frontline in
combating homelessness. Through his Faith-Based and Community Initiatives,
the President is reaching out to organizations rooted in faith that
serve homeless people at the grassroots level. We are encouraging
more of them to join us. Above all, we are working to ensure that
faith-based providers have the same access to federal funding as
their secular counterparts.
The Department of Labor is also reexamining its resources to make
them more accessible to homeless people. Labor is introducing initiatives
targeted to assisting homeless ex-offenders, veterans, disabled
individuals, and young people leaving the foster care system.
Along with reawakening the Council, we have brought together key
policy and research staff from the agencies that comprise the Council.
This senior policy group, which met last week for the first time,
will help guide our strategic planning. Next, we will activate a
group of program directors from each of our agencies to support
the work of the senior policy group. This has never been done before.
The Council will be launching a central homelessness website by
the end of this year. We know that we can do a better job getting
information like funding announcements into the hands of people
who need it, whether they are state and local officials, advocates
and providers, or homeless people themselves.
We also plan to revitalize HUD's regional efforts. In other words,
we are going to ensure that we have at least one person in every
regional office who concentrates on the issue of homelessness.
And we will be holding a series of focus groups, bringing together
folks from the field, faith-based agencies, housing strategists,
advocates, and homeless people to talk with us about homelessness.
We need to listen to the experts and learn from their experiences
Without the new federal commitment to cooperation, it is unlikely
that these ideas would have seen the light of day.
These new initiatives join a host of well-established federal programs
that support homeless individuals and families.
Overall, 14 targeted homeless programs are scattered among seven
federal agencies. These are programs like Healthcare for the Homeless;
PATH, which has been so helpful for people who are homeless and
mentally ill; programs to support homeless veterans; and substance
abuse and mental health programs.
During a year in which the costs of fighting a war abroad and ensuring
security at home are consuming substantial federal resources, nearly
all of these programs received budget increases for the coming year.
The Administration proposed a total of $2.2 billion for funding
these targeted programs. This is a 3 percent increase.
In addition, the President's budget proposal increases mainstream
resources that can assist homeless people. This includes housing
funds, substance abuse treatment slots, and independent living programs
for those aging out of foster care. $500 billion worth of mainstream
resources are available to help homeless people. All of us - on
the federal level and in the states - need to do a better job of
making these resources accessible.
We know from our own research at HUD that the most acute housing
shortage is for those earning 30 percent of median income and less.
So we need to work to make our own mainstream resources more available
to the poorest.
All of you have great passion for the issue that you have made
your life's work. I commend you for that commitment, and I applaud
you for your dedication.
I want you to know that your dedication and your commitment are
equally shared by me, as I look at my responsibilities at the Department
of Housing and Urban Development. You can count on me to be a willing
partner and a steady ally as we move forward to achieve these shared
We certainly have much more work ahead of us, but the Bush Administration's
commitment to America's homeless men, women, and families has new
breadth and new depth - and this gives me new hope that we will
The President and I appreciate the support of the National Alliance
to End Homelessness in meeting this challenge. We will continue
to seek out your suggestions and input. We will continue to deliver
solutions in a way that we believe best addresses the problem.
We are going to work with you. In our regional offices. Here in
Washington. With other federal agencies. Our combined activism,
experience, and enthusiasm will move us closer to accomplishing
our goals. Every month, closer to ending chronic homelessness, Every
year, closer to ensuring a home for every American.
Content Archived: March 16, 2010