Convoy of Hope Meeting


Thank you, Hal (Donaldson). Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I am pleased to join you.

One of the most powerful passages in St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians says this: "And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge: and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing." In other words, power and might and information are wasted and useless without concern for others, without service to others.

We see the power of charitable service every day, in countless ways. Our country is a world leader in politics, economics and finance, and national defense. But in my view, its greatest strength is the charity of its citizens, for which we also are the world leader. For those who are given much, much is expected. We know that charitable giving is a profound force for good, a creative and personal way to meet the needs of our citizens and people around the world.

And when people talk about the many ways that Americans give of themselves, they talk about organizations like the Convoy of Hope. Your global presence is one of the great stories of the non-profit world. In just over 20 years you have mobilized tremendous resources that comprehensively help people in need. For instance, on September 7th Convoy of Hope came to Washington, D.C., to the parking lot of RFK Stadium a few blocks from here, to distribute food and services, as you recently did in Atlanta and East Bay, California, and overseas in Albania and Holland and Panama and many other countries.

That is why I have come here today. I want to thank you for your many efforts, both in the United States and abroad. I want to express my own personal gratitude for your help during the recent hurricanes and their aftermath. I knew that when the hurricanes came, in Springfield and other locations there were people carrying supplies across the warehouse floor, loading up trucks, identifying drop-off zones, getting coordinates, and then quickly driving through the night to Texas. I knew the Mobile Command Center was in full operation, coordinating response, relief, and recovery. And I knew that you were already preparing for the next emergency, the next moment of need, because of your dedication to preparedness.

I want to thank you for your response, your invaluable efforts. You made a positive difference for people in need. And I could see that when I visited disaster relief sites, or when I stop in at a homeless shelter and listen to the stories there. There is much appreciation for your good work. And I often saw those words, that name: "Convoy for Hope" on boxes or containers.

It gave me more hope every time I saw it. I knew there were good people around, people who knew what to do and how to help.

In fact, your efforts mirror those at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. We share the same goal of helping less fortunate Americans, especially in times of great need.

I believe that faith-based efforts can compliment those of the government; they can even anticipate, precede, extend, or replicate governmental actions for the poor, the hungry, the homeless, those affected by natural disasters, or others who find themselves in difficulty. We can design and create a partnership that will help make our work more efficient and effective. Such a partnership would greatly benefit the American people.

In fact, in many areas faith-based organizations are the traditional sources for assistance, an experienced leader with much to teach us. Faith-based organizations have been helping Americans since the birth of this country, hundreds of years before government stepped in with safety net programs. I believe President Bush was right to set up a faith-based office in each department to help coordinate governmental efforts with your own. We are natural partners, obvious partners, who strengthen each other and provide a more effective response for those in trouble, when we work together in harmony to best meet the needs of Americans.

This partnership has been a priority for me at HUD. A few days after taking my oath of office in June, in one of my first public appearances, I was honored to speak at the White House Faith-Based Conference in Washington. It was important to me to continue our strong partnership between HUD and faith-based programs. This has been a priority for me as Secretary, because your vital work -- your commitment, your courage, and your compassion, your sacrifice, your sense of mission -- helps my department better serve the American people.

Our work...yours and stronger and more complete when we work together, combining our experience and resources to help Americans in need.

You have responded to hurricane disasters since 1998. In the recent hurricane disasters, as always, you were among the first responders. Your efforts helped address a natural disaster that was devastating, but could have been even worse without your assistance.

As we both know, the work is far from over. I know you still have on-going efforts; so does HUD.

I know that you will receive a briefing tomorrow at the White House. But let me tell you a little about what we did at the Small Business Administration and what we are doing at HUD.

Following the 2005 Gulf Coast hurricanes, the U.S. Small Business Administration, like government at every level, was overwhelmed and strained to provide disaster recovery loans to survivors. So when I became administrator in 2006, I restructured SBA's disaster loan process to focus on a fast response, customer service, employee accountability and efficiency. There was a hurricane loan backlog of more than 94,000 applications. But SBA matched every loan applicant with a case manager to provide the compassion and expertise that applicants need to navigate the loan process. Within months, the backlog of loans fell 80 percent, and response times improved by 90 percent. Today, more than $6 billion in SBA loans are helping more than 160,000 Gulf Coast families rebuild their homes, businesses, and lives.

Because of our reforms, disaster victims today receive better customer service and more timely assistance. Lenders and borrowers find the loan process simpler and quicker due to streamlined processes and improved support. Urban and rural area entrepreneurs have greater access to SBA resources, and military community members have a new loan product to help them start or expand businesses.

So I tried to initiate the same rapid, customer-oriented response at HUD. In the first days after hurricanes Gustav and Ike, we stepped in immediately to speed disaster relief to the counties that have been hard hit. First, for homeowners, we announced a foreclosure moratorium to families whose homes are insured through the Federal Housing Administration. This gave families the breathing room they need to put their lives back together without worrying about the prospect of losing their homes. Second, we strongly recommended that loan servicers provide special forbearance, loan modification, refinancing and waiver of late charges. Finally, we offered states the ability to re-allocate existing federal resources toward disaster relief.

Then, we followed-up in the next few days with incentives and controls for families to receive temporary rental payments and case management services before returning to self sufficiency. HUD and FEMA worked together to provide temporary rental payments and case management to help families who were displaced by Hurricanes Ike and Gustav. The new program, called the Disaster Housing Assistance Program, which began on November 1st, will help these families find intermediate housing. It mirrors the successful program that housed families following the 2005 hurricanes, which continues to support 30,000 families.

Now, you can help us locate and inform evacuated families that cannot return to their homes and or apartments. We need to make sure everyone has a safe and secure place to live.

That is why HUD, through its network of Public Housing Agencies (PHAs), is working with families and landlords to assure that eligible families can find a suitable apartment while they are in the process of rebuilding and returning to self-sufficiency.

DHAP will provide, as needed:

  • Rental security deposits,
  • Rental utility deposits,
  • Full rental assistance (HUD published Fair Market Rents) through April 2009,
  • Case management services, including financial education and job training, and
  • Physical inspections of the units to ensure they meet basic safety standards

So, if families think they are eligible or have already heard from us, but have questions, should immediately call (866) 373-9509. Every resident eligible for this program will continue to have their rents paid.

The needs of the Gulf Coast are vast and may take years to fully address. The homelessness there is a special case, but not the only case. Homelessness throughout the country is a pressing need.

Both Convoy of Hope and HUD are involved in efforts to assist the homeless. As you know, my department has the lead for the federal response to providing shelter for the homeless. We provide targeted grants to states, local governments and nonprofits to develop and operate housing assistance programs for homeless individuals and families.

You also reach out to the homeless with your assistance, as do many faith-based groups. A large number of faith-based organizations actually run the shelters and provide numerous services for the homeless.

Well, thanks to the efforts of hundreds of organizations and local governments through the country, together, we are making a difference.

President Bush has committed this nation to the goal of ending chronic homelessness. At HUD, we have encouraged "Continuums of Care" to address the entire spectrum of homelessness needs, from those who find themselves on the streets for the first time and need immediate shelter�to those who need assistance with problems of addiction or dependence... to those who need help in finding more permanent housing.

And, over time, with your help and that of other organizations, we have constructed a social infrastructure and safety net for homeless people in virtually every city and county.

The President has delivered increased funding, record levels, to enable our partnership to reach more homeless people, especially with more permanent housing. Last year, HUD announced grants of $1.3 billion nationwide to address homelessness, the latest in a commitment that, since 2001, has totaled approximately $10 billion to support housing and services. In the President's new budget, we are seeking $1.6 billion for HUD's continuum of care homeless assistance grant programs.

Together, we have been able to devote more resources to help the homeless. Since 2003, HUD has provided funding for more than 42,000 new, permanent, supportive housing beds, most of which were created through faith-based and community organizations, a more than 25 percent increase.

This year over 600,000 homeless persons will be assisted with HUD homeless funds operated by local non-profit organizations. Of that number over 130,000 persons will be assisted by faith-based groups.

We know this partnership is working. This summer, I released our Third Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress. This report documented a 30 percent reduction in chronic homelessness over the last two years! 30 percent!

But we still have a long way to go. Overall, if you add up the number of homeless, chronic and short-term, there are approximately 673,000 people who are homeless at some point during the year. So we must continue to look for every possible means to help more and more Americans stay off the streets and find appropriate shelter.

Let me focus for a moment on one sub-group: homeless veterans. I know many of you are concerned about the number of homeless veterans. I'm very concerned, too. The Department of Veteran's Affairs estimates that there are approximately 154,000 homeless veterans. That number is about half of what it was five years ago. But we need to do more for those who have served our country.

Earlier this year, my department announced a joint HUD/VA program to provide assistance for our nation's homeless veterans. This program, called HUD-VASH, or the "Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing" program, will provide new vouchers for homeless veterans and their families this year.

The program was given $75 million, and allows us to reach about 10,000 veterans in 2008.

The President has requested another $75 million in his budget for Fiscal Year 2009, which, if approved, would allow us to assist up to 20,000 homeless veterans. Clearly, this funding would be an important addition to our current efforts to end chronic homelessness.

I would ask you to also make homeless veterans a priority. Tell them about our VASH program. Help them get off the streets.

I am also concerned that, with mounting foreclosures, that many owners and renters may lose their homes. So, one way to help is to provide housing counseling. There are 2300 HUD-approved housing counselors in the United States. We know that those who use housing counselors have a very low rate of foreclosure. That is why the United States is now spending over $400 million to provide housing counseling. Housing counselors help avoid problems and help people with problems find affordable solutions.

We must emphasize financial literacy efforts that will help people better understand their mortgages. I know that you have a strong interest in educational efforts and also want to improve financial literacy. We can use your help. You could expand your educational outreach efforts to give financial literacy a higher priority. And you could provide more of the housing counseling that potential homeowners need, and is particularly important for current homeowners who need to refinance into a more affordable loan.

I know that you do so much. But I don't hesitate to ask you to do more, and to establish a closer relationship with HUD. Together, in partnership, we can do more, we can be even more effective. We can remember the words of Moses, when his service neared completion:

May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us: Establish the work of our hands for us- Yes, establish the work of our hands. (Ps 90:17)

Thank you for your life-changing, life-affirming work. The nation and the world benefit from the efforts of Convoy for Hope. I am proud of our growing partnership. I strong encourage you to develop an even closer relationship with HUD in the years to come.


Content Archived: February 8, 2012