By Rick Garcia
During the early 1980s as many families lost their homes and jobs, state and local governments were forced to dramatically cut the assistance they could offer.
As a result, we saw a dramatic spike in the number of homeless men, women, and families. Today we are emerging from an even more severe recession and once again local governments face hard fiscal times.
And the Obama Administration is building on that progress for Colorado families. That’s why today, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan announced $18.9 million in funding to help Colorado fight homelessness, part of nearly $1.5 billion to help more than 7,000 homelessness programs across the country.
These grants support a broad range of housing and services—what we call the “continuum of care”—from street outreach to the transitional and permanent homes that Individuals and families need to start rebuilding their lives.
While these funds will help us to speed the progress we’ve made, we already know the tools the Obama Administration is using to prevent and end homelessness are making a difference.
With the Recovery Act’s Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program—or HPRP—we have saved more than 1.2 million people from living on our nation’s streets – “fundamentally changing” the way communities respond to homelessness, according to the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
With innovative tools like HUD-VASH, which combines HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher rental assistance with VA’s case management and clinical services, we’ve housed more than 25,000 veterans – including more than 20 times as many veterans in the last two years as we had before President Obama took office.
And with the HEARTH Act President Obama signed into law, going forward Colorado communities will have increased flexibility to determine how best to use HUD funding to respond to homelessness – incorporating the successes and lessons of the last two years into this fight.
Most important of all is that for the first time, these funds aren’t just helping fight homelessness – but are actually part of a larger strategy to prevent and end homelessness.
Last year, the Obama Administration released Opening Doors – the first comprehensive federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness in our history. The culmination of a decade of bipartisan progress, the plan commits our country to ending chronic homelessness and homelessness among veterans in five years, while ending homelessness for families, youth, and children within a decade, and setting us on a path to end all homelessness.
And in today’s tight budget environment, that commitment is all the more critical. Indeed, over the last decade, we’ve seen that when localities combine housing with supportive services the results are fewer ambulance and police calls, fewer visits to the emergency room, and—just as importantly—real savings for taxpayers.
With these funds, President Obama’s commitment, and the partnership of local leaders, we can bring this proven model not just to Colorado, but to every community in the country – and put us on a path to ending the tragedy of homelessness once and for all.
Rick Garcia is a HUD Administrator for Region VIII, which includes Colorado.