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U.S. Plan Addresses Homelessness

July 19, 2002

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Bush administration outlined a $35 million initiative Friday to stamp out chronic homelessness, targeting people with addictions or disabilities, who have lived on the streets for over a year.

The effort reallocates existing funding from three federal agencies _ Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services and the Veterans Administration _ into programs that provide permanent housing and social services for the homeless.

HUD Secretary Mel Martinez said he would like to eliminate chronic homelessness within 10 years.

``This joint collaboration on homelessness has never been tried before. Yet it makes perfect sense,″ Martinez said in a speech Friday at a conference of the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

``The Bush administration’s commitment to America’s homeless men, women and families has new breadth and new depth, and this gives me new hope that we will succeed,″ he said.

The iniative was coordinated by the federal Interagency Council on Homelessless, which on Thursday met for the first time in six years.

Currently, 14 federal programs totaling $2.2 billion a year help the homeless in America. HUD provides nearly half of that funding.

Martinez’s speech got a mixed reaction from homeless advocates attending the conference.

``It’s a good initiative. Hopefully in the next year we can make great strides,″ said Hilary Eversol of Bowling Green, Kent.

Shawnel Lee, of Meadville, Pa. said the situation has worsened in her area in the last two years because of economic unrest.

``I think (Martinez) was blowing smoke,″ she said. ``We have more people who are one paycheck away from being homeless.″

The government estimates that about 2.5 million Americans experience homelessness every year, with 10 percent who are chronically homeless.

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On the Net:

Housing and Urban Development: http://www.hud.gov/

National Alliance to End Homelessness: http://www.naeh.org/

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