Testimony

Statement from
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

on
H.R. 4057, the "Samaritan Initiative Act of 2004"

before
Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity
Committee on Financial Services
U.S. House of Representatives

July 13, 2004

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) welcomes this opportunity to offer testimony for the hearing on H.R. 4057, the "Samaritan Initiative Act of 2004", before the House Committee on Financial Services, Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity. We appreciate the Subcommittee's commitment to examine new approaches to a Federal response to addressing homelessness. We recognize that the approach laid out in the Samaritan Initiative is a departure from past practice and are grateful to the Subcommittee for considering these challenges.

For nearly two decades, HHS has been the steward of programs that address the treatment and support service needs of persons experiencing homelessness, including the delivery of primary health care, mental health and substance abuse services, and the reintegration of homeless persons with their families and communities. We recognize the contribution of these services to the betterment of those experiencing homelessness. We also have recognized that their homeless status makes the delivery of such services more complicated, costly, and challenging. HHS welcomes the opportunity to work more collaboratively with other Departments, particularly the Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Veterans Affairs (VA), so that treatment and support services can be linked to stable residential situations.

HHS has worked closely with HUD, VA and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness in developing an Administration proposal and is pleased at the extensive list of co-sponsors who have joined Representative Renzi in offering H.R. 4057, the Samaritan Initiative.

This Initiative reinforces several directions that HHS believes should be pursued. First, as noted above, we believe that treatments and services to homeless persons will be more effective when linked to housing, a linkage accomplished with the Samaritan Initiative. Second, new resources and the administrative alignments of the Samaritan Initiative support HHS's goal to empower our State and community partners to improve their response to people experiencing homelessness, which was published in Strategies for Action, the Department's plan to uphold the Administration's goal of ending chronic homelessness. Third, we need to capitalize on what our research and experiences teach us. Prior research has taught us that coordination between treatment and housing systems leads to improved access to and retention in housing. Our current collaboration with HUD and VA is teaching us that communities are exceptionally receptive to the linkages supported by the Samaritan Initiative, but also require the administrative simplifications that the Act describes - efficiencies in the application for support, flexibilities in the pooling of the resources, clearer designation of governance, and accountability for outcomes that is more meaningful and less burdensome.

We welcome the collaborations that are supported by the Samaritan Initiative and the authorizations that permit us to work as true partners with the States, cities and counties that have committed to addressing homelessness in new, bold, and creative ways. We look forward to working with the Committee as this legislation progresses.

Last Revised: June 7, 2006