Udall Statement at Chuska Apartments
Gallup, New Mexico
September 26, 2008
Gallup, New Mexico
September 26, 2008
Thank you for inviting me to be with you today. I’m sorry I could not be with you in person, but I am with you in spirit as you dedicate these apartments that have long been a dream of this community.
Most Americans have seen the consequences of homelessness. We have seen a family sleeping on the street or passed by a shelter in the winter. But, as you know, homelessness is more than meets the eye.
First, not having a home is only part of homelessness. The battery of misfortunes that homeless people face every day goes far beyond simply not having a roof over their heads. America’s homeless are more likely to face mental illness. They are more likely to need additional healthcare services. They face high barriers to employment, high crime rates and low levels of education. If we want to stop homelessness, we must do more than provide homes; we must provide the services that will help the homeless tackle the other problems they face.
Additionally, the homeless are often not who we think they are. Americans know that homelessness can be the product of long-term unemployment or extreme poverty. We do not always see the men who held steady jobs only to see an unexpected illness rob them of the stable lives they once took for granted. We do not see the women and children forced into homelessness by abusive husbands and fathers. And we do not see the brave veterans living on the street because battlefield trauma has shaken their minds and our government has not provided the help they deserve.
Finally, Americans tend to think of homelessness as an individual problem. We feel sorry for the people we see on the street, but we do not look at them and feel sorry for ourselves. We should.
A society that does nothing about homelessness will have more crime, more fear and more waste. A homeless person who is not given shelter is more likely to wind up in jail. In some areas, that means that we will spend more money on admitting somebody to jail than it would cost to keep them in a shelter for months.
A homeless person who has no access to healthcare is more likely to use the emergency room as their primary physician. That means the community will spend five times as much money, and that person will still live a shorter life, filled with more suffering.
But fighting homelessness is about more than saving money on other social services. We fight for the homeless because we acknowledge one simple fact: we are our brother’s keepers; we are our sisters’ keepers. It matters to me that a child sleeps on the street in my city tonight, even if it is not my child. It matters to me that a veteran is turned away from the local shelter, even if I do not know him.
CARE 66—and the other community groups and businesses that made today possible—have looked at homelessness and seen it as it is. They are providing services to those they house, because they know that we can only end homelessness if we address the other problems that go with it. They are serving our veterans, because they know that veterans face higher rates of homelessness and need higher levels of care. And they are working with the community, because they know that homelessness affects all of us, and we all must play a part in ending it.
I will continue fighting in Congress to eliminate homelessness. I have cosponsored legislation to provide a home for every veteran, and I have supported initiatives to ensure that every man, woman and child sleeping on the street has an opportunity to put a roof over their head.
But I will not end homelessness in McKinley County. You will.
Only when community members work together to protect their fellow citizens do we have progress. I will walk with you every step of the way, but this is ultimately your journey. Today you have taken another step in the right direction.
Thank you and good luck.
Member of Congress