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HUD and Bush Announce $1 Billion in Grants to Homeless Organizations

Aired November 20, 2001 - 10:17   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: A live picture from Washington, D.C. Somewhere in there is the President of the United States. George W. Bush having arrived there at a soup kitchen there. It's called "So Others Might Eat," that's a charity in Washington. The president, among other things, going to talk shortly and announce a billion dollars in grants to organizations that help the homeless, especially at the holiday time, most appropriate. We'll have the comments for you live when they happen.

In the meantime, though, a lot of people are wondering about whether or not the United States has now entered a bull market, up about 20 percent since the lows back in September. We're going to check in shortly here with Amanda Lang at the New York Stock Exchange and see what's happening on Wall Street. A shortened trading week, there.

And as we continue to watch the picture here, rather interesting day for the president today. Not only does he have this event here at the charity in Washington again, "So Others Might Eat", is the name of the charity. A bit later, a public service announcement going to be released at the White House that features the president and first lady, encouraging volunteer service here in the U.S.

And as the program continues in Washington, let's check on in and listen for a short time here.


FATHER JOHN ADAMS, "SOME" SHELTER DIRECTOR: ..and eat meals here, two meals a day, breakfast and lunch. Next door we have our women and children's dining room. And we do this together with a lot of help from interfaith community because we are Protestants and Catholics, Jewish people, that -- 110 different groups from the area that provide meals on a daily basis. Some of them have been coming for well over 20 years. And that's really what we are all about. Each one of us is helping because that's what our faith tells us to do. And we reach out to our brothers and sisters in need.

The meals are really a beginning for the homeless people who come here. Beginning of restoring hope and dignity to people that -- that need that. We do that through our excellent medical clinic and dental clinic, our social services. The 20 -- 200 housing opportunities that we give to people. Our jobs program that we run -- six-month job program -- as well as mental health services -- as well as services to the elderly that are poor.

Each program that we use, have -- uses a lot of volunteers, who either tutor or are doctors, cooks or who -- and who donate their time and their talents to us. Together with a wonderful, dedicated staff, committed staff, we're here to work together to help homeless people overcome what keeps them poor or homeless. And we have many hundreds of success stories. People who are now working, tax-paying people who were once homeless, contributing back to the community. And we're proud of each and every one of them. 15 percent or more of homeless people -- formerly homeless people are part of our own staff at SOME and so we're proud of each and every one of our graduates.

We do this work with the help of a lot of private donations; in fact, most of the contributions come from them. We're down a bit this year, about 15 percent, but we have a great faith and trust. And we couldn't do our work without partnerships with both the Department of Labor and especially with the -- with HUD.

And that said, it is my pleasure today to introduce all of you to the Honorable Mel Martinez, the United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Under his leadership -- leadership and the leadership of President Bush, HUD has made a new commitment to serving the homeless. Secretary Martinez has endorsed the goal of ending chronic homelessness within ten years. And taking steps to make that happen, he's activ -- reactivated the Interagency Council on Homelessness and is sponsoring training sessions with state agencies and giving homeless men and women better access to the help that they need.

The secretary has a special appreciation for the work of faith- based communities such as ours, because it was faith-based group that brought him to this country as a refugee from Cuba and set him on the path towards the American dream. Please help me to welcome Secretary Mel Martinez.


MEL MARTINEZ, SECRETARY OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT: Thank you very much, Father. I appreciate that wonderful introduction, and it's great to be here and see SOME actually in practice. I've been hearing about SOME, and it's just a delight to be here.

You know, the last couple of times I had occasion to be with the president for an event, we were pounding nails in the heat in Florida and in Waco, Texas, for Habitat for Humanity. And Mr. President, I'm glad to be here today to provide a little inspiration instead of perspiration.



Mr. President, I also want to thank you -- I think all Americans want to thank you -- for your leadership in guiding us through these difficult days that we've had, and your unwavering hand has given this country a stronger leadership, and we're more determined and more together as Americans than I think we ever have at any time in history.

So I take great pride in having the opportunity to do this event with you at a time when I think all Americans feel more proud than ever to be Americans.

While millions of America's families will meet in their homes for their Thanksgiving meal, thousands will come together in the warmth and safety of dining centers like this one. But there are still countless others, especially those who have no home to call their own, who will not have that opportunity.

This administration is dedicated to serving the homeless and finding them homes, and HUD is proud to be leading that effort. We support thousands of centers like this around the country. And HUD is working to strengthen these partnerships even further.

Working with our faith-based partners and other community organizations, we shine a light on those who have perhaps lost their way and have found impact in the lives of homeless men and women throughout the country.

I'm honored to serve a leader who is guided by great compassion, who is a leader of compassion. So ladies and gentlemen, it's my great honor to introduce to you the President of the United States George W. Bush.


BUSH: Thank you very much.


Thank you. Sit down.

Mel, thank you very much. I appreciate your leadership. I appreciate your vision, and I appreciate your heart.

Father Adams referred to Mel's rescue from Cuba.

BUSH: He came over in a program called Pedro Pan, Peter Pan. And that's when his mother and dad decided that life in Cuba would be rough on young people and they had great faith in America and great faith in a program that encouraged them to put their little boy on an airplane, and he flew to America.

When we swore in Mel, I'll never forget meeting his adoptive parents that provided a loving home. Mel's a perfect choice to understand what a loving home means. He saw one in a foreign land that enabled him to go from a scared little boy to now secretary of HUD. It's a marvelous story about America.

It also helps me to be able to assure people that the secretary who runs HUD has got a heart of gold and a deep compassion about all Americans, those newly arrived as well as those who have been here for a long period of time. I'm honored that Mel has agreed to serve our government, and I'm absolutely confident America and the needs of America will be more easily met as a result of his leadership.

Often times when I speak around the nation, I talk about the great strength of a nation lies in the hearts and souls of our citizens. I was using military terms at times even before the war began. I talked about armies of compassion. I truly believe that that's one of the wonderful strengths of America, that we have got armies of compassion all across our country, and Father Adams is a general in the army of compassion.


He won't admit it. He'll say he's a lowly foot soldier. But I saw the way he got people snapping-two when it came time to introduce people in the kitchen. I see everybody with green aprons on. I suspect the general ordered that to be the case.


But I want to thank Father Adams and everybody else who works here for really bringing out the best in our country by helping people in need.

The other thing I'm most impressed about the vision of Father Adams, besides being a social entrepreneur, somebody who is willing think as aggressively as possible to help people in need, is that this is a program that attracts people from all faiths.

That's important for the world to see, that our country is a country of a variety of faiths, that we respect other faiths and that we're bound by some common principles: Love a neighbor just like you'd like to be love yourself. That's common to faith.

Last night, we had an Iftar dinner at the White House. It's part of breaking the fast of Ramadan. I wanted to assure people that there are common values, even though we may have different ways to worship God.

This program shows those common values: A neighbor in need needs to be help. We need to constantly figure out ways to reach out and help somebody who may not be as fortunate as we are.

And as we come into the holiday season, the Thanksgiving season, traditional holiday seasons of our country, we must always remember, there are people who hurt in our society. And we must always remember, with blessings come the responsibility to help those in need.

And so that's why I've come to So Others Might Eat and to highlight the successful programs that do make a difference in people's lives and to thank people for their and care for our fellow Americans who are in need.

There's no question that our country has been deeply wounded. We were attacked. After all, we were never used to being attacked. Never did we dream -- I certainly never dreamt that I'd be the president where there is a war on our home front. But the evildoers never really -- they must to not have known who they were attacking. They must of kind of thought we were soft and hateful.

In fact, the attacks have united our country, have rallied a nation, and out of evil will come good. And part of my purpose as the president is to remind people of the good that can come out of these attacks.

No question that the outpouring of support for -- in the direct aftermath of the September 11th attack was astounding. People gave. They gave blood; they gave money; they gave time to help. And that's great. And I want to thank those Americans who helped.

But in order to make sure the home front is secure, in order to make sure that we don't allow the terrorists to achieve any objective, Americans must give generously to programs like SOME, community-based programs that help make their neighborhoods a better place for all.

I have been disturbed by reports that charitable giving has dropped off. I hope Americans will not substitute the gifts they have given for -- in the aftermath of September 11 for neighborhood groups such as SOME or mentoring programs or programs that understand that, when you change a person's heart, you can change their life for the better, that faith is such an integral part of our society and faith is such an integral part of helping people help themselves and that as we think about ways to recognize the true blessings we have in America, that we must never forget the food banks and the hungry and the poor and that the most effective programs are those that have sprung from the hearts and souls of social entrepreneurs such as Father Adams.

And so I hope America -- I encourage America that, as we head into Thanksgiving, to find a program that needs help or, if you've been helping a program in the past, continue your help. The generosity of this country will say to the world that we're a nation that will not be affected by terror and evil, that, in fact, we encourage good to overcome evil through our actions and deeds, not just our bravado, not just our waving a flag, but true actions and true, compassionate acts of giving in order to make sure this nation remains whole and strong and complete.

Government's got a responsibility, as well. There is a role for the federal government in making sure that charitable organizations thrive and flourish.

Today, I am pleased to announce that the Department of Housing and Urban Development is distributing more than $1 billion this year in grants to community charities which serve the homeless. It is the largest such grant in the history of the country. It is a grant program that will help provide food and shelter, drug treatment, job training and other vital services.

It is a part of our government's desire to support the armies of compassion. We don't want government to take the good father's place. We want the government to stand side by side with the good people of SOME and programs like it all around the country.

We must also promote more private-sector giving, besides just words of encouragement. And so I want to make sure that the tax code is changed. And we've got time to do so with the Congress. I've been working closely with Joe Lieberman and Rick Santorum to say that you can deduct -- non-itemizers can deduct charitable giving or that, out of your IRA, you should be allowed to give gifts to charitable organizations.

It is a wise use of the tax code to encourage more charitable giving to programs that are positively affecting people's lives. And I think we can get a bill out of Congress to do just that. I know that the House has responded. J.C. Watts and Tony Hall, Republican and Democrat, work closely together.

Lieberman and Santorum are doing the same thing. And so why doesn't Congress, in order to help fight poverty and fight hopelessness, do something smart with legislation and bring it to my desk, so I can sign it before Christmas? It makes a lot of sense.


I think, as well, we ought to have a tax incentive for food donation, and I know that we ought to create a -- what's called a compassioned capital fund that will give community based organizations needed resources and training.

I suspect that if we have a capital fund that will encourage people to duplicate that which works, there will be a lot of people coming here to SOME to see why this program is so successful, and I suspect the good father will be willing to share with others from different communities as to how to make a program like this work. And the federal government ought to be in the process of encouraging the formation of community-based programs, and to that end, we need to simplify the process by which community-based organizations gain tax- exempt status.

The mindset of the federal government has been that only government- sponsored programs should receive federal money. That's not my attitude. My attitude is, government should be nondiscriminatory about how we use taxpayers' money.


We ought to ask the question, does the program work? And if faith is the integral part of a program being successful, the government ought to say, "Hallelujah." We ought to say we welcome the good work of faith in our society. We ought not to fear it; we ought to welcome it and encourage it.

And so the faith-based initiative that has passed the House and, hopefully, will pass the Senate recognizes the great power of faith in our society and says that government ought to encourage the social entrepreneurship that we find here at SOME and government ought to encourage the armies of compassion to flourish all around our neighborhoods, that government ought to welcome faith and not shy away from it.

And as well in this piece of legislation, we recognize there are some specific tasks that the social entrepreneurial system can deal with, such as a son or daughter of a person in prison.

I can't think of anything more profound than to have a national mentoring program where somebody whose dad or mother is in prison, will have somebody to put their arm around them and say, "I love you; somebody loves you in our society." There's nothing more profound for a child than to be surrounded by love and care and compassion. And so part of this initiative is to encourage the funding of a national mentoring program aimed at some of the most vulnerable in our society -- those whose mom or dad may be sitting in prison right now.

Can America -- the fundamental question is, can America address these problems? And certainly, we can't address them with money alone. But as I'm sure Father Adams will testify, money can help.


It's part of how a program succeeds.


And so, therefore, I ask Americans to dig a little deeper in their pocket. In the aftermath of the tragedy that so deeply effected our nation, I ask the American people to understand that, in order to make America whole, that programs such as SOME make an enormous difference in people's lives, that we are a blessed nation, and as we go into Thanksgiving, we ought to thank God for our blessings, for our families, for a fantastic country, the greatest country on the face of the earth.

We ought to thank Him for the protection that we've received since the attack. Thank Him for our blessings but, at the same time, seek ways to help, seek ways to help our fellow human, seek ways to save a heart, seek ways to save a soul.

I am so honored to be able to come to this program and highlight the great successes that can take place in neighborhoods when loving Americans come together with a singular purpose of helping a neighbor in need.

May God bless SOME, may God bless America.


HEMMER: SOME is the acronym, "So Others Might Eat," that's the name of the program, the charity there at the organization that President Bush has attended today. A sympathetic voice and a pleading voice too, saying "out of the evil will come good." To the American people, he says "find a program during this holiday season, before the year is out, that needs help." "Dig a little bit deeper," he said at one point. "Never forget the food banks, the hungry and the poor in this country. The news out of the event, through the Housing and Urban Development Department, HUD, saying a billion dollars in grants being given to organizations that help the homeless across the country. A huge amount of money, the president saying the largest ever.

At the White House, CNN's John King is standing by. Rather busy day for the president. John, flesh out what the president was talking about in terms of legislation that might be "tax incentive induced" to give more contributions from the American people to a number of groups throughout the country, as we continue to watch the picture in Washington.

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You see the president there shaking hands, Bill. This event, yet another reminder of how dramatically the events of September 11th have changed this country and changed the president's agenda. What he was discussing there was one of his top priorities. Flashback to January: the president talked about his tax cut. He talked about major education reforms, and he talked about what he calls "the faith-based initiative."

That is changes in the tax code and changes in government regulations that would encourage faith-based organizations, many linked to churches and religious groups, that provide help to the homeless, as you see the president at this site here in Washington, D.C. Drug counseling, things like that. The president wants to change the tax code to encourage people to give to those organizations -- faith-based organizations -- to make it easier to give charitable contributions. That is one of the many items put on the back burner since September 11th as the president has focused on the war on terrorism both overseas and at home.

You heard a fresh appeal from the president there, for the Congress to pass that legislation before Christmas. Unclear whether that will happen. There has been some progress in the House. It is held up, now, in the Senate. The major reason for the hold up now, not even the partisan differences, just simply, that the Congress, like the president, has been preoccupied with the war on terrorism.

You also heard the president there make another appeal. He said the outpouring of support from Americans, in the wake of the September 11th attacks was "overwhelming." Direct contributions to the victims of those attacks, but the president noting there is some evidence that other, more traditional charitable giving, has dropped off because of that. Gifts to such organizations like this one. So Others Might Eat and community groups, the president, as you noted, urging Americans to dig deeper.

So, a reminder today. We see all presidents do this in the week leading up to Thanksgiving -- focus on charitable contributions, helping the less fortunate. But a reminder, as this president conducts a very traditional event, of how much things have changed in the past two months.

HEMMER: A bit later today, John, he's going to meet with the president of the Philippines. There's been a lot of talk about Muslim fundamentalists operating in that part of the world.

But, later today, he heads off to the Department of Justice to help rename that department building after the late Robert F. Kennedy. While running for president, June of 1968, gunned down in Los Angeles. Rather interesting event that will take place there today for the former attorney general named in his honor, deceased well over 30 years ago.

KING: A tribute to Robert F. Kennedy, and a reminder, we are told. The president will draw parallels to Robert Kennedy's fight against organized crime when he was the attorney general to the current effort to crack down on domestic terrorism here in the United States.

Some questioning of the broad new government powers the administration asked and received for the Justice Department in the investigation of terrorism here at home. The president will defend those powers as necessary, given the threat he sees from the prospect of continued domestic terrorism.

A tribute to Robert F. Kennedy, a look back, if you will, at his legacy, but also an effort by the president to draw parallels to the fight against organized crime, to defend the steps he want the administration to take looking ahead to the future.

HEMMER: Got it, John. Thanks for helping out. John King at the White House. We watch the president go out.




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