HUD Secretary Steven C. Preston addressed the annual conference of the National Alliance to End Homelessness on Tuesday in Washington, DC. commending Virgin Islands homeless advocates, Tom Bolt, Chairman of the Virgin Islands Continuum of Care on Homelessness and Michael Akin, Director of Catholic Charities of the Virgin Islands and the others attending for their "tremendous work for thos who need the help desperately."
Immediately after his address Secretary Preston released HUD’s Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress which details a 30% drop from 2005 to 2007 in chronically homeless people living on the nations streets and in shelters. "We can all be encouraged that we are making progress in the reducing chronic street homelessness," the housing secretary said. "But we must also recognize that we have a long way to go to find a more lasting solution for those struggling with homelessness every day."
Through a series of workshops, open dicussions, and seminars, homelessness experts and advocates from across the country presented emerging research and model programs in ending homelessness, as well as detail how communities across the country can develop and implement plans to end homelessness.
In reviewing the HUD report Bolt noted that the national figures were not indicative of those found in the Virgin Islands. "Our statistics on poverty and homelessness in the Virgin Islands are nearly double that found throughout the U.S. mainland. We have not seen the reduction that our counterparts may have on the U.S. mainland. With our local fuel and energy costs escalating out of control, Virgin Islanders are having to decide between paying the rent or buying food. We must do better. We must find solutions!" Bolt remarked.
"I believe that the Bush Administration’s focus on the chronically homeless, does not count the thousands of homeless families and those who live on the margins, particularly the "couch surfers", those who are doubled up with family and friends." Bolt said. "It is critical that the Virgin Islands set about to develop what Secretary Preston calls "a critical pathway to a better future’ for our homeless. With the support of Virgin Islands Governor John deJongh and our local Legislature working with members of our Virgin Islands Continuum of Care on Homelessness, we can make a difference. It is my sincere hope that the Continuum will bring all stakeholders to the table to produce a Virgin Islands plan to end homelessness in the very near future."