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Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Location: Washington, DC




S. 3475. A bill to provide housing assistance for very low-income veterans; to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.

Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce the Homes for Heroes Act of 2006.

When we talk about veterans in Washington, I often think about my grandfather, who signed up for duty in World War II the day after Pearl Harbor. He marched across Europe in Patton's army, and when he came home to Kansas, he could have very easily faced some tough times.

He could have had trouble paying for college, or finding a job, or even finding a home. But at the time, he lived in a country that recognized the value of his service--a country that kept its promise to defend those who have defended freedom. And so he was able to afford college through the G.I. Bill, and he was able to buy a house through the Federal Housing Administration, and he was able to work hard and raise a family and build his own American dream.

And after I think about my grandfather, and the opportunities he had as a veteran, I then think about a veteran I met named Bill Allen, who told me that on a recent trip he took to Chicago, he actually saw homeless veterans fighting over access to the dumpsters. Think about that. Fighting over access to the dumpsters.

Each and every night in this country, more than 200,000 of our Nation's veterans are homeless. And more than half a million will experience homelessness over the course of a year. There is no single cause for this. Homeless vets are men and women, single and married. They have served in every conflict since World War II. Many suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder; others were physically and mentally battered in combat. A large number left the military without job skills that could be easily used in the private sector.

All have risked their lives for their country. All deserve--at the very least--the basic dignity of going to sleep at night with a roof over their head. And every day we allow them to go without, it brings shame to every single one of us.

This is wrong. It is because we're quick to offer words of praise for our troops when they were abroad, but quick to forget about their needs when they come home. It's wrong because we have the resources and the programs in place to help solve this problem. And it is wrong on a fundamentally moral level--the idea that we would allow such brave and selfless citizens to suffer in such biting poverty. And so it is now our responsibility--it is now our duty--to make this right.

Last year, I introduced the Sheltering All Veterans Everywhere Act, S. 1180--the SAVE Act--to strengthen services for homeless veterans. The SAVE Act would reauthorize and expand two of the most successful programs in dealing with homeless veterans: the Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem Program and the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program. In addition, the SAVE Act would expand the reach of the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program to also include veterans at risk of homelessness, so that we can work to prevent homelessness before it happens.

And while it is one thing to get veterans off the streets temporarily; it is another to keep them off--to place veterans in real, permanent homes. In fact, the VA has consistently identified permanent housing as one of the top three unmet needs in the fight against veteran homelessness.

That is why I'm introducing a bill today called the Homes for Heroes Act. This is a bill that would help expand access to long-term, affordable housing by creating a fund so that the community and nonprofit organizations could purchase, build, or rehabilitate homes and apartments for veterans.

So that we don't just leave them, to face their personal challenges on their own, the organizations would also provide services like counseling, employment training, and child care to the veterans who live in this housing. And the Homes for Heroes Act would expand the number of permanent housing vouchers for veterans from the current number of less than 2,000 to 20,000. These are vouchers that have been highly successful in giving veterans the chance to afford a place to live.

Every day in America, we walk past men and women on street comers with handwritten signs that say ``Homeless Veteran--Will Work For Food.'' Sometimes we give a dollar; sometimes we just keep walking. These are soldiers who fought in World War II, Vietnam, and Iraq. They made a commitment to their country when they chose to serve--and now we must keep our commitment to them. Because when we make the decision to send our troops to war, we also make the decision to care for them, to speak for them, and to think of them--always--when they come home.

This kind of America--an America of opportunity, of collective responsibility for each other--is the kind that any of our parents and grandparents came home to after the Second World War. Now it is time for us to build this America for those sons and daughters who come home today.


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