Prepared Remarks of Secretary Shaun Donovan at a Honolulu Veterans’ Homelessness Event
US Vets-Barber’s Point, 1772 Shangrila #37, Honolulu, HI Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Thank you all for joining us today.
I’d like to thank two extraordinary leaders -- men who have represented Hawaii’s families for a combined 7 decades in the United States Senate…
Senator Daniel Inouye and Senator Daniel Akaka. Let’s give them both a round of applause for their leadership.
It’s particularly appropriate that we gather here today, because both Senators understand at their core the importance of keeping our commitment to our nation’s veterans. After all, they’re veterans themselves.
They know, as President Obama and I know, that the scourge of veterans’ homelessness is one of our greatest tragedies.
That’s why I’m proud to be here in Honolulu with the remarkable staff and clients of US Vets-Barber’s Point, which is pushing back against homelessness by providing the support our veterans need -- and deserve.
By providing not only transitional, permanent, and long term supportive housing for homeless veterans, but also critical supportive services such as health care, US Vets is proving that homelessness isn’t simply a “noble fight” -- but a problem we can solve.
By connecting housing with supportive services, communities across the country have reduced the number of chronically homeless people by more than a third inside of five years -- all while saving money for the taxpayer.
That’s smart government -- and I’m here today because the Obama Administration is building on that model.
Indeed, with the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing program funded through President Obama’s Recovery Act, local partners like US Vets have helped save more than 5,100 people from homelessness in Hawaii and nearly 1 million people nationwide.
It was that kind of success that allowed us to put together Opening Doors, the first strategic plan in history that commits the Federal government not to reducing homelessness, or to managing it, but to ending it.
Indeed, here in Hawaii, we’ve seen an unprecedented level of cooperation and commitment with the goals of Opening Doors.
Thanks to Governor Abercrombie’s extraordinary leadership, the state has led the way in drafting a plan that is aligned with Opening Doors, along with an executive order creating a State Interagency Council on Homelessness that is a model for states across the country.
With partners like Governor Abercrombie, through Opening Doors we will work to end homelessness among families and children by 2020 -- and chronic and veteran homelessness by 2015.
Indeed, while there is no greater calling than honoring our country’s fallen -- there is no greater shame than the fact that so many of our heroes are living on our streets and in our shelters.
Today, one out of every six men and women in our homeless shelters has worn our country’s uniform.
That is wrong -- and with President Obama’s leadership, it’s going to end.
To keep that commitment, HUD and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs--led by Hawaii’s own Eric Shinseki--forged the innovative HUD-VASH partnership, which combines our Housing Choice Voucher rental assistance with the VA’s case management and clinical services.
Through HUD-VASH, we’ve housed nearly 20 times as many veterans in the last two years as we had before.
The solid body of evidence that permanent supportive housing ends homelessness and saves money is why we were able to request funding for over 11,000 additional HUD-VASH vouchers--even in a tough budget environment--and a record level of funding for Continuum of Care grants, which communities like Honolulu use to prevent homelessness, and provide rapid re-housing and new permanent supportive housing.
For our veterans, this request comes not a moment too soon, as increasing numbers of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are already living on our streets.
So, it’s an ambitious agenda -- and there are plenty of people who say we can’t afford to be that ambitious.
But I believe we can’t afford not to -- not when we have veterans returning from two wars.
And not when we still have more homeless Vietnam-era veterans than troops who died in the war itself.
As President Obama has said, “until we reach a day when not a single veteran sleeps on our nation’s streets, our work remains unfinished.”
Thanks to the efforts of leaders like Daniel Inouye, Daniel Akaka, and Neil Abercrombie, we already know that we can complete that work.
Working together, with your partnership, I know that we will. Thank you.