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Home > Research Articles > MARTINEZ OUTLINES BUSH ADMINISTRATION STRATEGY TO COMBAT CHRONIC HOMELESSNESS

U.S. Housing and Urban Development

Saturday, August 03, 2002

MARTINEZ OUTLINES BUSH ADMINISTRATION STRATEGY TO COMBAT CHRONIC HOMELESSNESS Speech to Homeless Advocates Outlines Coordinated Federal Response to Homelessness

WASHINGTON - One year after he declared a national goal to end chronic homelessness within a decade, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez announced the Bush Administration's plan to better coordinate the nation's response to homelessness. Included in the comprehensive plan is a unique collaboration between three federal agencies that would provide $35 million in permanent housing and critical services to end chronic homelessness.

The funding will include $20 million from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), $10 million from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and $5 million from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Today's speech to the annual meeting of the National Alliance to End Homelessness comes a day after the White House hosted the first meeting of the Interagency Council on Homelessness in six years. Last year, President Bush reactivated the Council, which will coordinate the activities of 18 federal agencies that assist homeless individuals and families and will concentrate more effort into the prevention of homelessness.

"President Bush has made it a top priority to confront the root causes of homelessness," said Martinez, HUD Secretary and chairman of the Interagency Council on Homelessness. "The Administration's new vision places a greater emphasis on coordinating our assistance and preventing individuals from becoming homeless in the first place."

A critical component of addressing the needs of homeless persons is to provide an opportunity for individuals and families to find a permanent place to live. The funding announced today will be directed to provide permanent housing and support services to ending chronic homelessness.

In addition to the funding proposed today, the Bush Administration is announcing a multi-faceted approach toward meeting the goal of ending chronic homelessness in America.

Prevention For decades, the common strategy toward helping homeless persons was to move those in need through a system of care and toward permanent housing. Since 1987, for example, nearly $11 billion from HUD's homeless assistance programs have helped hundreds of thousands of men, women and families to leave homelessness while thousands of others have come into homelessness. Modern research confirms prevention is critical if this nation is to have a comprehensive, holistic approach to the homeless problem.

In another example of interagency collaboration, HUD is joining the Department of Justice, HHS, VA and the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education and Labor in Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative to identify at-risk persons and provide services BEFORE they become homeless. The purpose of this $100 million program is to prepare offenders for life outside of prison and youth correctional facilities. This initiative provides approximately $2 million to states to create a reentry strategy that reduces homelessness among ex-offenders. The costs associated with prevention and early intervention are significantly lower than the cost of providing emergency services once a person becomes homeless.

Greater Access to Mainstream Services Research confirms that approximately 10 percent of the nation's homeless are so-called chronically homeless - often suffering from mental illness or addiction. Though a fraction of the overall homeless population, the chronically homeless account for more than half the resources designed to meet the needs of the entire homeless population.*

Currently 14 federal programs totaling $2.2 billion a year help homeless persons in America, including more than $1 billion annually from HUD. Only a fraction of homeless individuals and families, however, have sufficient access to approximately $500 billion in mainstream services including Medicaid, TANF, Food Stamps, and mental health and drug/alcohol addiction programs.

To provide greater access to these significant mainstream services, HUD, HHS and VA are sponsoring a series of regional "policy academies" across the country for state and local governments. These policy academies will now be offered to every state to provide local leaders the technical assistance they need to direct these necessary services toward homeless persons.

Education While homelessness impacts entire communities, children are especially affected. Homeless children often do not receive the proper education that comes from a stable home environment, often moving from classroom to classroom as their families' circumstances change.

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 in America. By having a dedicated person to assist homeless families, local schools can better serve children who have heretofore been underserved in schools. These liaisons will be responsible for ensuring these children have the access to the educational resources they will need to break the cycle of homelessness.

Community and Faith-Based Involvement Recognizing that grassroots community and faith-based organizations are already providing a network of social service to meet the needs of the homeless, President Bush is charging HUD and four other federal agencies to remove existing barriers that preclude the participation of these important groups in federal funding opportunities. By rallying these "armies of compassion," the Administration hopes to tap into a crucial resource that, when leveraged with federal and other public-private resources, will further assist individuals and families without a home.

Background on the Interagency Council Congress established the Interagency Council in 1987 with the passage of the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act. Over the past six years, however, the Council was relatively dormant. Last year, President Bush reactivated the Interagency Council to better coordinate the activities of 18 federal agencies that currently involved in assisting the homeless. In addition, HUD, HHS and VA formed a joint task force to study and improve the way these agencies respond to the various needs of homeless individuals and families. Learn more about the work of the Interagency Council on Homelessness.

HUD is the nation's housing agency committed to increasing homeownership, particularly among minorities, creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans, supporting the homeless, elderly, people with disabilities and people living with AIDS. The Department also promotes economic and community development as well as enforces the nation's fair housing laws. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet.