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National Coalition for Homeless Veterans - Speech

Frederico Juarbe Jr.
National Coalition for Homeless Veterans
April 30, 2002

Thank you Linda for that introduction and for inviting me to speak at your annual conference.

There’s an old Chinese proverb that says may you be cursed to live in interesting times.

Well, I accept that the times are indeed interesting, but I do not see it as a curse.

In fact, I see it as a unique opportunity.

I have been an advocate for veterans most of my adult life. And I sincerely believe that all those experiences were preparing me for the assignment I have now.

I am proud to be the assistant secretary of the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service in 2002.

And I am proud that we have partners like Linda Boone to work with.

Her dedication and unwavering commitment to veterans’ issues has put a national spotlight on the tragedy of homelessness among veterans.

And we will keep that spotlight burning until we achieve the original goal of NCHV, the elimination of homelessness within the veteran community.

Since 1990, the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans has been reaching out to these men and women.

Today, we have a clear window of opportunity to build a better delivery system that will provide 21st century services to 21st century veterans.

Tragically, all too many of these veterans find themselves homeless on the streets and in the alleyways of this great nation.

The actual numbers are hard to document but the tragedy is not about numbers, it is about living, breathing men and women.

Men and women who have worn the uniforms of our nation’s armed forces, men and women who have sacrificed to preserve the quality of life the rest of us enjoy; men and women who, for whatever reasons, have fallen through our safety nets.

As long as men and women who have served this country in uniform can be found without shelter, without jobs, and without hope on our nation’s streets, the benefits our democratic society brings must be considered only partially successful.

As long as these capable women and men go to sleep hungry, cannot provide for their families, and suffer from the physical and mental torments made even worse by their aimless wanderings, there is unfinished business that must be done.

There has been a lot of activity in the last few months focusing on how VETS might be able to do its business in new and better ways.

That activity has generated a lot of questions about the future of many of VETS’ programs, including the administration of the HVRP grants.

Unfortunately, I cannot yet answer many of those questions. But I can share with you what I know.

And I can share with you what I passionately believe.

One of the ways we are looking to improve the quality and delivery of VETS’ programs is contained in the President's fiscal year 2003 budget.

It would transfer funding for the Disabled Veterans Outreach Program, the Local Veterans Employment Representatives, and the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Project grants from the Department of Labor to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

This transfer as part of the President's overall strategy to better serve citizens by increasing the effectiveness and accountability of all government programs. It is designed to strengthen all services to veterans by putting them all under the roof of an agency devoted to addressing the needs of veterans.

We have been in continuous coordination on this initiative since last December with assistance from the Office of Management and Budget

I expect the Administration’s bill to be submitted soon.

What does this mean for the HVRP program? All the details have not been finalized but the integrity of the grants is not in doubt.

The funding for the HVRP program will be leveraged into the VA’s extensive homeless program so that more veterans will be eligible for more and better services.

But no matter how this or any other legislative proposal plays out in the coming months, VETS has an important mission to carry out this year, right now, for every veteran seeking services.

To emphasize my determination to provide a seamless continuum of services, the new SGA for homeless grants will be published in the Federal Register tomorrow.

There will be $7 million available to fund up to 40 new grants.

But a continuum of services does not necessarily mean doing business in the same way.

I want to make sure that HVRP is giving veterans the best possible bang for the buck.

So VETS is contracting with Management Support Technology to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of HVRP.

I want to know the validity of the performance indicators we use to measure program outcomes.

I am going to review the extent to which our program outcome goals are being met.

I want to know how to make our network with other agencies providing homeless services work better.

I am going to get the latest socio-demographic data so we can ascertain future trends, needs, and requirements of our veteran population.

This kind of information will help VETS develop appropriate program outcome goals that will enable homeless veterans to more easily move into the mainstream of their communities.

Many of our current HVRP grantees will be contacted by MSTI, either in person or by telephone.

The project director, Gerald K. Johnson, is a retired Army officer with a full understanding and appreciation of the challenges facing our veteran community.

I look forward to sharing the results of this program evaluation with all of you as soon as it is completed.

In the meantime, my door is always open to Linda and all the 250 members of the NCHV.

I need to hear from you on all issues of mutual concern.  

Right after this speech, I am leaving for San Diego for another speaking engagement.

While I’m there, I am planning to visit one of our HVRP grantees – Vietnam Veterans of San Diego – to get a better understanding of how our programs work.

The longer I’m in Washington the better I understand the necessity of getting out beyond the Beltway and talking and, more importantly, listening, to the people who provide the programs and services at the local level.

It is through clear, candid, and continuous dialogue that we will improve our working relationships, develop better programs and services, and thereby better serve all America’s veterans.

It is a major challenge but one from which we must not retreat.

With your prayers and your active involvement, I know we will succeed.

Before I close, I want to thank you for the honor that you will bestow Thursday on a former VETS’ employee and a long-time advocate for homeless veterans – Eileen Conners.

Selecting Eileen as the first recipient of the Jerald Washington Memorial Founders’ Award is a generous gesture on your part and a recognition of Eileen’s dedicated work on behalf of homeless veterans.

As many of you know, Eileen is critically ill and I ask you to join me in including Eileen in your prayers.

As we return to our homes and families tonight, I know that each of us will remember that many of those who have guarded the security and freedoms that we hold sacred are not sleeping warm and safe tonight.

They should be.

Thank you very much