Remarks of Secretary Julián Castro
National Alliance to End Homelessness
2014 National Conference
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
As prepared for delivery
Thank you very much, Laura (Zeilinger), for your kind introduction.
More importantly, thank you for your leadership at the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. Getting 19 federal agencies on the same page isn't always easy work.
But you've done an excellent job of bringing everyone together to advance common goals. I applaud all your efforts and look forward to working with you, and my colleagues in the Cabinet, as I take my seat on the Council.
I'd also like to thank Nan Roman, and the entire team at the Alliance, for their extraordinary leadership over the years.
Your compassion for people-and passion for justice-has made an incredible difference. I value all your work and thank you for inviting me today.
Finally, allow me to express my appreciation to all of you. As I understand it, we have a diverse crowd that's traveled many miles to be here because of a deep belief in an important cause: giving every American access to decent, affordable housing.
This is the same cause that compelled me to leave my hometown, San Antonio, to begin this new chapter. This is just my third day as HUD Secretary. I'm still trying to find my way around the office. I'm still trying to figure out the coffee situation. I still have to update my LinkedIn profile.
But even though my days are hectic, I couldn't pass up the chance to be with you this morning. First, it gives me the opportunity to simply say "thank you" for giving a voice to those living on the streets. Often, it's too easy for folks to get desensitized.
I remember visiting big cities when I was younger and seeing so many folks sleeping on sidewalks, on benches, in subway stations, on church steps. And while the occasional bystander would offer some spare change or a bite to eat, there was a feeling that somebody being homeless had become an accepted part of the urban backdrop - like a bus stop or a streetlamp.
There was this misperception in the air that those experiencing this hardship were lazy, weren't capable or had done something wrong to deserve this fate. But we all know better.
Those experiencing homelessness aren't problems. They are people. And each of them has a story, whether it's the couple who went bankrupt during the Great Recession or the veteran who is having difficulty adjusting to life back home.
They don't need a handout. They need housing.
You are helping families meet this need. You are giving them new hope for the future. And because of your work-in just three years-we've seen an 8% drop in family homelessness.
Because of your work, we've seen a 16% drop in chronic homelessness. Because of your work, we've seen a remarkable 24% reduction in homelessness among veterans.
Y'all are showing that we've got to do more than help others overcome the odds. We've got to change the odds. We've got to create an infrastructure that gives everyone a fair shot at achieving the American Dream.
This is the cause that I will fight for every day as Secretary. Today, I'd like to briefly share three priorities.
First, building on the work of Shaun Donovan, I want everyone to know that HUD is more than just another government agency. It's your champion for opportunity.
And when I leave in January 2017, I won't judge my tenure by the number of initiatives we've launched or press releases we've issued. I'll judge it by results - by the way we were able to make opportunity real in the lives of families, including those sleeping on our streets
For too long, these Americans have been relegated to the shadows of our society. You and our President have put them at the top of the agenda - and so must we all.
During my tenure, HUD will fight for these Americans. And we'll keep fighting until they get their fair chance to lift themselves up.
That brings me to a second priority: revitalizing our nation's urban areas. We are in a Century of Cities, a time when America's urban centers are growing again.
The U.S. Census Bureau projects that by 2050, the population in urban areas will grow by more than 60 million people. Families are becoming increasingly attracted to the jobs and the energy that cities can offer.
But we all know that growth by itself is not enough. It has to be inclusive growth that reaches everyone, including those experiencing homelessness.
This is an issue that is rampant in urban areas, which why we have to ensure that revitalization includes decent affordable housing so that nobody is left behind. That's what's happening in San Antonio's East Side.
It's the only neighborhood in America that has received funding to implement major projects under three key Obama Administration revitalization efforts-Choice Neighborhoods, Promise Neighborhoods and The Byrne Criminal Justice Program-all of which are supporting a comprehensive local vision for the future, including quality housing, good schools and safe streets.
So I understand the importance of community development and as HUD Secretary, I will do everything I can to support local leaders in achieving their goals. And I promise to get help to you as quickly and effectively as possible.
Now a third priority: improving the way we do business. I'd like HUD to focus on outcomes, not only inputs. We shouldn't just track projects and dollars spent. We must measure those investments by the impact they make.
Secretary Donovan built a strong foundation for this and I'll work hard to make this the norm at HUD. That begins with making it easier for all of you to be successful.
I know you're tired of the paperwork and delays that come with doing business at HUD, and we're making progress, but more needs to be done. Under my leadership, we are going to streamline the process and announce NOFAs earlier.
Why? Because when you succeed, our communities succeed. And I promise to keep on looking for ways to make your lives easier.
HUD is your partner in opportunity. And make no mistake: ensuring that everyone can obtain and maintain access to housing remains a top priority.
In fact, I want to stress how proud I am that my first major speech as Secretary is with the National Alliance to End Homelessness. My appearance here ought to send a loud and clear signal.
HUD's commitment is the same as it's ever been: strong, passionate and firmly dedicated to working with you to end homelessness once and for all.
This Administration will not rest till the job is done, a commitment that starts at the top with President Obama. His Opening Doors initiative is the first federal strategic plan to end homelessness.
Federal agencies have broken free from the old approaches and assumptions that didn't work. Now we're using tailored solutions, from rapid rehousing to permanent supportive housing, to give folks the support they need.
We have increased collaboration with other agencies, like VA and HHS, to better serve communities. With efforts like HUDStat, we are using data to determine what's working and what's not, helping guide a more targeted approach to assist those in need.
We are now embracing the compelling evidence that shows how effective it is to provide opportunity at the outset by offering housing first. We know that these approaches work and are making a difference. Now we've got to scale our progress and finish the job - and that takes resources.
In the President's Fiscal Year 2015 Budget, HUD requested exactly $301 million in additional funding for Homeless Assistance Grants. I didn't round this figure down because I want to be clear: this isn't some number we pulled out of thin air.
We determined that 37,000 new units of permanent supportive housing are needed to end chronic homelessness. Then we calculated that this exact figure will meet that demand and fulfill our moral obligation to our neighbors in need.
It will also meet our economic obligation to protect taxpayer dollars. We know that it costs up to $50,000 a year to let a person cycle through emergency rooms, hospitals and other costly public services.
Permanent supportive housing only costs up to $20,000 year. So this funding works for both the bottom line and the common good. Right now, Congress has the chance to act on this issue.
By investing $301 million in additional funding, they can save money and lives. It's time to get this done.
Of course, action in Washington only goes so far. In fact, during my time as Mayor, I saw how progress often begins from the ground up.
That's why I joined the Mayor's Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness. We can't end homelessness nationally unless we end it locally.
Mayor Becker in Salt Lake City and Mayor Stanton in Phoenix have already ended chronic homelessness for veterans, and are now committed to ending homelessness for all veterans.
Mayors, Governors and county executives across the country have pledged to do the same. And in doing so, they are showing everyone that this cause is not a dream. It's a goal within reach for veterans, for youth, for families and for individuals.
Now it's up to all of us to seize this opportunity. I know y'all as advocates are committed to making this happen.
Your leadership has brought us within reach of ending homelessness, and the entire HUD team has been proud to support your vision. I know Ann Oliva and Jennifer Ho are here today and they will continue to lead that work for me at HUD.
Our Continuum of Care Program currently funds just over 8,000 local programs that are meeting the needs of their communities in unique ways. We want to continue to support you, which is why HUD is constantly looking in the mirror to see how we can get the most out of our resources.
I respectfully ask that y'all do the same. Please look at your programs. If they're just good, that's not good enough. If you're using the same program model you did 20 years ago, there's probably a better way.
If your local community isn't keeping up with the progress we've made nationally, it's time to try something different. We're not asking any of you to do away with all the resources you offer. But it's important for all of us to think strategically and invest in programs that are going to end homelessness.
This means reviewing all existing programs to place resources towards efforts that we know work - while letting go of ineffective efforts from the past. I know change isn't easy, but it's necessary to meet our ambitious goals.
That's why I'm sharpening the tools at HUD. I ask that you do as well. And together we can ensure that every person-regardless of their station in life-can have a place to call home.
This is why I got into public service. I was blessed with opportunity and wanted to give back. Through your work, you are blessing others with opportunity as well. Our mission today is to extend this opportunity to everyone.
This conference represents the start of a new partnership between you and me. I know this isn't a shy group, but still, I want to emphasize that I welcome your feedback.
Our door will always be open. Tell us how we can be a more effective partner with you.
Let us know how we can serve you better. I want all of us to look back on this time as a turning point in this important movement.
A time when we changed the odds for struggling Americans. A time when we gave young people the opportunity to thrive.
A time when we gave veterans the opportunity to find decent housing in the very country they risked everything to protect. A time when we gave all those who've fallen on hard times the chance to turn the page and start anew.
The Administration's commitment to the people we serve is greater than it's ever been. With our momentum, we have an incredible chance to succeed.
With so many lives in the balance, we have an obligation to succeed. With so many people who need our help, we cannot stop till we succeed.
Working together, we will succeed. Thank you.