Here’s What We Hope the New HUD Secretary Will Do

written by Steve Berg
June 29, 2014

Julián Castro, mayor of San Antonio, has been appointed to become the new Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Assuming that he is confirmed by the Senate (and at this point there is no reason to believe that he won’t be, although how long it will take is an open question), he’ll take the place of current HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, who will be moving to the White House as director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) (again, depending on Senate confirmation).

We at the Alliance are looking forward to Mr. Castro being another effective HUD Secretary, following the example set by Secretary Donovan. Specifically, he can be a great help in reducing the number of homeless people. Here’s how:

  • Support the work of HUD’s Homeless Assistance programs to incentivize communities that are adopting the most effective practices: rapid re-housing, permanent supportive housing targeted to homeless people with the most severe disabilities and who have been homeless the longest, and community-wide coordinated efforts to make sure each person who is homeless gets the right kind of help.
  • Encourage communities to make their “mainstream” HUD housing and community development resources part of efforts to end homelessness. With the right kind of partnerships, for example, communities that use one out of every five “turnover” vouchers or units from Section 8 would have enough housing to end chronic homelessness by the end of 2016.
  • Keep a focus on the goals set out in Opening Doors, the federal plan to end homelessness: ending veterans homelessness by the end of 2015, ending chronic homelessness in 2016, ending family and youth homelessness by 2020, and establishing a path to end all homelessness in the United States. HUD budgets should be made with a clear understanding of the resources that are necessary to meet these goals.
  • Work with other agencies to make sure that federal resources are coordinated. Important examples include the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which has a range of programs that can help end homelessness for veterans, but which also needs HUD resources from the HUD-VASH program, and other housing resources; the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), whose Administration for Children and Families will be key to ending family and youth homelessness, and whose Medicaid program can be a source of funding for treatment and supportive services for people escaping homelessness; and the Department of Labor, whose workforce programs should become a more effective resource for people who are homeless or have recently been homeless. The US Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), of course, is key to making coordination happen, and HUD should remain a leader on that Council.
  • Serve as a persuasive spokesperson for ending homelessness. The effort to end homelessness in the U.S. is something we are all working on together, and can be emblematic of the best that our country can do. The focus should always be on solving the problem by making housing available to those who don’t have it. The hundreds of thousands of people who are now homeless deserve nothing less.