Dr. Randy Petzel, thank you for that kind introduction. Let me also acknowledge:
Gloria Hairston, thanks for taking on the job as master of ceremonies today;
Thanks to both Jacqueline Foster for that wonderful rendition of our National Anthem and to Chaplain Cross for invoking the blessing;
To the young people from the Options Public Charter School's Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps—great job of posting the colors for this ceremony—thank you;
Fernando Rivera, Director of Health Network 5;
Brian Hawkins, our medical center director;
Dr. Fuad Issa, medical director of this wonderful initiative, the Community Resource and Referral Center—the CRRC.
Susan Angell, Lisa Pape, Vince Kane, Pete Dougherty—thanks for your devotion to ending Veterans' homelessness;
Marvin Turner, representing Health and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan;
Mayor Peter Lewis of Auburn, Washington. Welcome, Mr. Mayor;
Members of the several Congressional staffs represented here—too numerous to name, but much appreciated, nevertheless, for all your support and devotion for Veterans and families;
Bill Janis and Gregory Jones from the Virginia and Maryland Departments of Veterans Affairs;
Matt Carey, representing the District of Columbia's mayor, Vincent Gray;
Our veteran service organizations—thanks for your partnership and for helping us get things right for Veterans;
Our community partners here in the National Capital Region—we have come so far together;
Fellow Veterans, VA colleagues, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:
Good morning. Thank you for coming to help dedicate this important place of hope and help for our Nation's homeless warriors, here in this most important city in America—and in the world.
President Obama long ago declared, "Those heroes [who defend our Nation] have a home. It's the country they served, the United States of America. And until we reach a day when not a single Veteran sleeps on our Nation's streets, our work remains unfinished."
Today, that work goes on. With the opening of this center, we are moving to end Veterans' homelessness in Washington, DC.
VA is committed to doing this in 2015—an ambitious goal, to be sure. Some worry that the task is too large, the hill too steep, and the time too short. Who would quit before taking on the challenge? Even in central Texas, they say "You can't wring your hands and roll your sleeves up at the same time. You have to do one or the other."
At VA, we have rolled our sleeves up, and we are getting on with 2015. Of course, we have an ambitious goal—we are VA. The goal is ambitious because Veterans deserve our best efforts.
This CRRC will be open to homeless Veterans 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year—it is a 24/7 "Stand Down." Our Veterans deserve nothing less.
At VA, we know that ending Veterans' homelessness requires both rescue and prevention—rescue those on the streets today, and at the same time, prevent others who are at risk of homelessness, from ending up there tomorrow or the day after.
In January 2011, the homeless Veteran point-in-time estimate decreased by 12 percent from 2010. And over the past two years, we've built a powerful Homeless Veterans Registry—robust, dynamic, comprehensive, up-to-date. With this registry, we'll be able to clearly validate our needs, see where to apply our resources, and then measure whether we did any good. The database will also offer a rich resource for studying the causes of homelessness, the forces that keep folks on the streets rather than in more productive pursuits, and how to leverage our resources. This registry will begin to be rolled out this summer.
The homeless often end up having to visit multiple locations to discover benefits and services available to them. This CRRC, one of 17 strategically located across the Nation, brings together federal, state, and local partners to serve both homeless Veterans and those who are at risk of homelessness. The intent is to provide them all they need, here, in one place.
As Brian Hawkins said earlier, the CRRC is not just a warm welcome and a place to find out about primary and mental healthcare, and VA benefits, education, and housing. It is also a place to shower, do laundry, find a healthy meal, and for those with children, a safe place for youngsters while parents get the help families need.
Great accomplishments all begin with great collaboration. We're grateful that our federal and community partners will be sharing space with us here on the first floor to help Veterans make the climb of hope to dignity and opportunity. It's the chance for a new beginning from a grateful Nation.
Now, let's cut the ribbon to officially open its doors.