Opening Statements of Committee Members

Opening Statement of Senator Wayne Allard (R-CO)

Oversight Hearing on Consolidation of HUD's Homeless Assistance Programs
9:30 a.m., Tuesday, May 23, 2000

I welcome everyone to today's hearing on the consolidation of HUD's McKinney Homeless Assistance Programs.

This is the first of a number of legislative hearings that the Housing and Transportation Subcommittee will hold throughout the summer. The purpose of these hearings will be to explore housing reform proposals before the Congress.

Within the next several weeks I will release a discussion draft of housing reform legislation. This legislation will include consolidation the homeless programs at HUD. The purpose of this hearing is to solicit testimony on the most appropriate means of consolidation.

This hearing is timely for another reason. Several years ago, seven Senate Committee and Subcommittee chairmen requested that the General Accounting Office begin a major project to study and report to Congress on the state of the federal government's homeless programs.

This request was the result of two concerns, first, that federal programs may not be effective in ending homelessness, and second, that there was a tremendous lack of coordination between the numerous federal programs.

The GAO has now completed three of the four studies that are planned, with the final one due out in July.

The GAO's testimony today will focus on the first study, which surveyed the large number of federal homeless programs. That study found that there are 50 federal programs with funds that can assist the homeless, with 16 programs targeted exclusively at the homeless. These figures alone support the case for consolidation.

In 1987, Congress passed the McKinney Homeless Assistance Act. This Act was designed to provide a comprehensive federal response to the problem of homelessness.

Until the 1980's, the problems confronted by the homeless were mainly addressed at the state and local level. The McKinney Act represented a consensus that had developed that a major federal commitment was required in order to end homelessness.

Since this legislation was enacted, Congress has appropriated over $11 billion under the HUD McKinney programs.

Yet today, there is no evidence that the number of homeless has declined. It may actually have increased. In my view, the federal government should be held accountable for a lack of results.

I want to make clear that I do not pretend to have the answer to how we deal with homelessness. But one thing is clear to me, we have got to do better! This hearing is to begin a discussion on how we do better.

My view is that we should block grant the dollars directly to the states and localities. But I am happy to listen to the views of those who disagree and who have suggestions on how to most effectively structure a block grant.

It seems to me that a block grant accomplishes two major things. First, it gives local communities the flexibility to deal with the unique situations in their jurisdiction -- the problem of homelessness is very different in Colorado, than it is in Washington DC or New York.

Second, a block grant gives communities a predictable funding stream so that they can plan ahead in order to integrate homeless assistance with other government funds and begin to build a strong continuum of care network in their communities.

The Subcommittee will hear today from a number of witnesses from city and state government. They strongly support a block grant, and believe that they are in the best position to deal with homelessness in their communities.

We have Barbara Richardson, from the City of Rockford, Illinois; William Shelton from the State of Virginia, and Richard Godfrey of the Mortgage Finance Authority for the State of Rhode Island.

In addition, we have Nan Roman of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, and John Parvensky of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. They do not support a block grant, and I will be listening carefully to their reasons.

We also have the Department of Housing and Urban Development which actively lobbied for a block grant until 1997. However, I understand that the Department no longer supports that position.

I want to particularly thank those witnesses that traveled a long distance to be here today.

We will begin on panel one with Stan Czerwinski of the General Accounting Office. He will give us an overview of the federal programs and lay the groundwork for a discussion of consolidation.

I would ask all of our witnesses to limit their oral statements to 5 minutes. The most beneficial part of this hearing will be the questions, and I want to have plenty of time for that.