A national tragedy

The U.S. must secure a better future for the homeless.

By Alphonso Jackson

On any given night, approximately 600,000 people across the U.S. are without a home.

Of those, 200,000 are experiencing “chronic homelessness.”

A chronically homeless person suffers from a disabling developmental, physical or mental condition or a substance-abuse addiction, and has been homeless for a year or more, or had repeated periods of extended homelessness.

Research tells us that chronically homeless individuals consume over half of all emergency shelter resources.

Additionally, they become very costly to local communities by cycling repeatedly through shelters, correctional facilities, hospitals and other systems of care.

Today, a patchwork of federal, state, city and private money supports more than 40,000 programs designed to assist homeless individuals.

Yet there are more homeless people than ever before.

A new federal program challenges the nation to end chronic homelessness by 2012.

In the past two years, more than 130 state, county and city governments have joined in this effort by developing their own 10-year plans to end chronic homelessness.

In his fiscal year 2005 budget, President Bush proposed the Samaritan Initiative, an interagency collaboration that will combine resources from the departments of housing and urban development, health and human services, and veterans affairs.

The program will jointly fund community-based efforts to provide chronically homeless persons with permanent housing and supportive services.

By combining our resources, we will reach more of our nation’s homeless than ever before.

We have reason to be hopeful that homelessness will one day be conquered.

In a land of tremendous opportunity, everyone should have a place to call home.

Alphonso Jackson is U.S secretary of housing and urban development.

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