Remarks of Secretary Shaun Donovan at the National Alliance to End Homelessness’ “Never Another Homeless Veteran” Awards Ceremony and Benefit Reception
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
As prepared for delivery
Thank you, Nan (Roman), for that kind introduction and for your incredible leadership over the years.
I’d also like to recognize Leon Winston and Swords to Plowshares for their great work. Both are very deserving of the honor they are receiving tonight.
And of course, I’d like to thank the National Alliance to End Homelessness for all your tremendous contributions. Throughout the years, you have not only provided people with shelter and support, you’ve also provided them with dignity and hope for the future.
It has been an honor for me to work closely with you along the way. And I’m thrilled to be here tonight as you launch your “Never Another Homeless Veteran” campaign.
Our Duty to Our Veterans
This is a timely and important effort. We are gathering shortly before Veterans Day. It’s a time for our nation to come together to tell all those who have put on the uniform that we deeply appreciate their service to our country, we honor the sacrifices they’ve made for our freedoms, we value all that they have done to advance democracy around the world and we will be forever in their debt because they answered the call to serve.
Over the next few days, we will come together at parades, ceremonies and celebrations to express our gratitude. But as Americans, we must do more to honor all these heroes.
In fact, we have our own duty, and that’s to serve our veterans as well as they have served our nation.
One area where they need our help is with housing. As I’ve said many times before, having just one veteran experiencing homelessness is unacceptable. Having more than 60,000, as we currently do, is a national disgrace.
We cannot let these forgotten heroes slip through the cracks. We’ve got to do everything we can to lift them up and help them rejoin the very communities they gave so much to protect.
The Obama Administration’s Commitment
From the beginning, this is an issue President Obama has been focused on. Back in 2009, the President said we’ve got to provide “new help for homeless veterans, because those heroes have a home, it's the country they served: the United States of America.”
In the years since, we’ve been providing this help in a number of ways. As part of the Recovery Act, we created the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program, which helped prevent or end homelessness for roughly 1.3 million people.
We’ve launched Opening Doors, the first federal strategic plan designed to end homelessness.
We are ensuring that agencies—like HUD and the Department of Veterans Affairs—are working together like never before, using evidence-based approaches to get resources to those who need them the most.
We’ve improved the effectiveness of efforts like HUD-VASH, increasing the total number of veterans housed by this initiative from 1200 when President Obama took office to nearly 60,000 as of September We’ve broken free from old ways of thinking, and embraced new approaches like Housing First in order to combat chronic homelessness.
In short, the Administration is working together, and with partners like you, in ways the federal government never has before. And this work is paying off.
From 2010-2012, the number of veterans experiencing homelessness dropped nearly 18 percent.
In addition, although the new PIT count won’t be available for a few weeks, communities have told us that we continue to make progress. Indeed, places like Salt Lake City and Phoenix are close to solving this problem – and others, like New Orleans, are making considerable headway.
We should all be proud of these gains. But we can’t be content. We still have a long way to go. We must continue to fight for all those who have fought for us.
In fact, all of us have to step up our efforts if we are going to end veteran homelessness. We’ve got to ensure that Congress doesn’t balance the budget on the most vulnerable and instead, continues to support programs like HUD-VASH.
We must be more creative and innovative than ever. We have to be better partners for each other. If we do all these things and more, we will reach our goal.
Of course, there are some who say we have set our sights too high – that ending homelessness for any group is impossible. But all of us here know differently.
We know it’s possible because of the resilient spirit of people like Leon Winston and Tina Thomas. It’s possible because groups like Swords to Plowshares are leading the way.
It’s possible because places like Salt Lake City and Phoenix are showing that it can be done.
It’s possible because all of us in the Obama Administration are committed to working with each other, and with partners like NAEH, in unprecedented ways.
All we have to do now is get the job done. The campaign you are launching today will go a long way towards achieving this goal.
And I look forward to working with all of you to, as you’ve said, ensure that the phrase “Never Another Homeless Veteran” isn’t just a slogan, but a reality across the nation.