Thursday, July 30th, 2009
Thank you, Nan – for that introduction, for your remarkable leadership with the Alliance, and, above all, for the bedrock commitment to end homelessness you have impressed upon five different HUD Secretaries. I look forward to continuing our work together.
I want to also thank your board, particularly Co-Chairs Susan Baker and Mike Lowry. And I want to note the HUD team here helping us address homelessness – Mark Johnston, our Deputy Assistant Secretary for Special Needs, and Ann Oliva, who heads up our Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs.
And of course, many of you know Fred Karnas – Fred is a senior adviser and has been critical in our Recovery Act efforts, including working with Mark and Ann quickly distributing the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing funds that so many of you made possible.
Will all of you stand up?
I want to also acknowledge the work of the Pete Dougherty, the interim executive director of the Interagency Council on Homelessness, and the USICH staff, many of whom are here today.
But most of all, I want to thank everyone in this room who labor day in and day out to help the millions of men, women, and children in our nation who experience homelessness.
In the best of times, it is hard work.
In times like these, it is nothing less than the work of angels.
So, thank you.
Three years ago, The New Yorker ran an article that most of you are probably familiar with.
It was called”Million Dollar Murray” and it chronicled the story of an ex-marine who, for well over a decade, was a fixture in the part of Reno, Nevada that tourists rarely see: its shelters, emergency rooms, jail cells, and backstreets.
Like too many of our nation’s homeless population, Murray Barr died while still homeless, still on the streets.
Indeed, his story reminds us that each of us is here today for the same fundamental reasons:
Because we believe that a civilized society does not allow someone to live like that.
Because a civilized society doesn’t allow someone to die like that – alone, on the streets, with no hope, no chance for a better life.
But as much as Murray’s story was a cautionary tale – it was also one of affirmation.
Today, not only do we know we can do better by the long-term homeless, like Murray – because of you, we are doing better.
I witnessed this for myself in New York City, where as Commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, I worked with groups like Common Ground, who day-after-day systematically debunked one of the most corrosive myths that even well-meaning people have long held:
That some people want to be homeless.
It led to a twisted sort of logic – that if government couldn’t house and improve the health of those living on our streets-visibly ill and suffering-who could we help?
Well, together, we showed them. By developing the “technology” of combining housing and supportive services-delivering permanent supportive housing via a targeted pipeline of resources- we’ve “moved the needle” on chronic homelessness, reducing the number of chronically ill, long-term homeless by nearly a third in the three years since “Million Dollar Murray” was published.
The fact is, we have now proven that we can house anyone.
Our job now is to house everyone – to prevent and end homelessness.
That is what the Alliance has fought for in communities across the country – and it’s time that the Federal government not only supported those efforts, but took the lead.