The Department of Housing and Urban Development on Monday awarded $900 million nationwide for community projects to combat homelessness, the largest grant of its type in federal history.
A competition elicited homeless programs from all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
“We intended to make this (homelessness) our first priority,” HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros said at the House of Ruth homeless shelter in the District of Columbia. “The department that has housing as part of its name must address itself to those who have no housing.”
For the Clinton administration and HUD, the unprecedented $900 million in grants to 228 communities culminated a 2-1/2-year effort to move homeless policy away from individual shelter, feeding, counseling and housing programs. Studies suggest that approximately 600,000 Americans are homeless on any given day.
Cisneros and Andrew Cuomo, assistant HUD secretary for community planning and development, have advocated an integrated “continuum of care” designed to pull together these services and move the homeless toward permanent jobs and housing.
The homeless initiative is the only housing innovation actively promoted by Clinton, who has largely left HUD to fend for itself in the current debate over housing policy.
Cisneros trumpeted Clinton’s virtues, noting “our presence here today is because the president of the United States said ‘Yes, that (homelessness) should be your first priority.’ Time after time he said ‘put it on your list and make it happen.”’
He used the ceremony to denounce Republican congressional proposals to slash funding for federal housing programs in general: “Don’t let anyone tell you the need is not great,” Cisneros said. “We must stand for budgets that are strong enough to keep people in housing.”
With President Clinton’s early support and generally bipartisan backing from Congress, federal funding to combat homelessness more than tripled from $572 million in 1993 to $1.8 billion this year.