Dr. Ben Carson
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
National Coalition for Homeless Veterans
May 30, 2018
As prepared for delivery. The speaker may add or subtract comments during his presentation.
Good morning. Thank you, Kathryn Monet for your kind introduction and for the invitation to join you as we reaffirm our commitment to ensure housing opportunities for veterans.
Thank you, Chick Ciccolella for your remarks and for everything you are doing. My thanks to the board of N-C-H-V, and especially to everyone here for all you do for those who have worn our nation's uniform.
I also want to thank the Coalition for your staunch support of our nominee for Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing, Hunter Kurtz. Hunter was nominated September 28, 2017, voted out of committee on November 28, and has been awaiting Senate confirmation for 183 days. We look forward to having him confirmed and appreciate your efforts.
I am pleased to be back with you again this year during Memorial Day week, a time of important reflection and renewal for our country and for our values. It is a moment to call our armies of compassion to action on behalf of America's heroes and patriots.
I'd like to also recognize and thank the community service providers throughout our country, many represented in this room, who work on the front lines of this important challenge365 days a year. We are additionally grateful for the more than 880 mayors, city and county officials, and governors who have joined the Mayors Challenge to end veterans' homelessness in their communities.
Veterans experiencing homelessness are the same, extraordinary Americans we honor before they had a housing need. We want them to know not only do they have our eternal gratitude, but our true support for their health, safety, and wellbeing.
We need our veterans to flourish. We need their contributions, their skills, and their love for our country. They are vital to our national character, to our spirit, to the soul of democracy itself. Their sacrifices remain the foundation of our liberties, which is in turn the rock on which our economy rests -- the same economy that provides for the opportunities afforded to millions of Americans.
Once a soldier, sailor, airman, marine, or coastguardsman completes his or her tour of duty, we commit to assisting a smooth and successful transition to civilian life, and when there is a derailment, we are here to get it back on track.
While we gather today to reinforce our resolve, I want to also recognize how much has been accomplished with respect to our veterans. We should remind ourselves we have made significant progress and will continue to learn from strategies that are working inside our communities so that we can build upon that success.
Local communities reported that nearly 40,000 veterans were experiencing homelessness during a point-in-time count in January of 2017, an increase of 1.5 percent since 2016. However, the increase was primarily the result of the high-cost of housing on the west coast - specifically in the City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County. If we exclude Los Angeles, the national homelessness estimate among veterans decreased 3.2 percent since 2016.
As a consequence of intense planning and targeted intervention, homelessness among veterans has been reduced 46 percent since 2010, prompting a number of States and local communities to declare an effective end to veteran homelessness in their areas. 63 communities across 33 different states have effectively ended veterans' homelessness in their communities.
The decline in veterans' homelessness is largely attributed to the close collaboration between HUD and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). For example, since 2010, more than 480,000 veterans and their family members have been permanently housed, rapidly rehoused, or prevented from falling into homelessness through HUD's targeted housing vouchers and VA's homelessness programs.
The Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program has provided permanent housing for veterans who would otherwise be living on our streets or in shelters. Over this past year, we have continued to ensure that HUD-VASH serves our veterans and keeps them not only in our hearts, but off our streets, with a roof overhead, and receiving the level of assistance and care that anyone who served our country and finds themselves struggling richly deserves.
HUD is currently reviewing data that was gathered in January's “point-in-time” count, which will reflect homelessness in 2017. It is too early to say what we experienced this past year, but we do know there is more work to be done in certain areas of the country. We will be vigilant on this endeavor, along with you, until we succeed in eliminating veterans homelessness in America.
We recognize the complexity of issues facing many who come back from fighting overseas. We understand that a variety of problems may need to be solved together, whether it's job training, financial support, mental illness, opioid abuse, depression, post-traumatic stress, or injury.
HUD has been working closely with medical centers and the VA to address the chronically homeless that are related to mental illness and opioid and other addictions. A holistic approach to serving our veterans is the impetus behind HUD's Envision Centers, which bring together many resources, from both public and private providers, in communities that have the greatest challenges.
HUD and VA will continue this fruitful partnership that includes getting veterans access to case management and housing. We continue to work with communities to implements plans. We know the problems look different in every community - it is not one-size-fits-all -- so we will continue to help our partners design strategies that will work best for the veterans they are serving.
As a compassionate country, we will not stand idly by while any of our citizens live on the streets. We believe in the dignity and sanctity of every human life. We believe in each-and-every one of us living up our God-given potential and having the opportunity to thrive, and to experience the blessings of freedom - regardless of race, color or creed - and we cannot abide anything less for the individuals who sacrifice for these principles.
Our citizens will do everything possible to help those who, for a variety of reasons, find themselves without shelter, without a home, or with a problem that is keeping them from the path to self-sufficiency and independence. We are especially outraged when we hear that a veteran - a man or woman who defended our Constitution, our families and our country -- might be suffering in such a way that would leave him or her on the streets or in shelters.
Thank you again for helping us live up to, and to honor more deeply, our duty to our men and women in uniform. Together we will dramatically improve the situation and the opportunities for these deserving Americans, assist them as they regain control of their lives, and ensure they enjoy the freedoms they helped preserve.
Thank you. God bless our veterans and God bless this country which they so nobly, ably, and selflessly protected and defended.