The U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Marcia Fudge, held a press briefing via Zoom Wednesday with student journalists attending HBCUs.
There was one representative each from more than 30 schools on the briefing, and each student prepared one question related to HUD and its plans for 2022. Despite technical issues in the first 10 minutes, Fudge was able to answer many questions about fair housing, the homeless crisis and how HBCU students can help make a difference in our communities. Fudge says these conversations are crucial as young people are the ones who will “save the community.”
“I’m just so happy to be able to have these conversations with you because it is important that you stay in the fight, that you ask the question, that you write and talk about what you think is important. If you don’t, no one will hear us,” Fudge said.
Fudge talked about the plans HUD and the Biden-Harris administration have already been able to put into action. She discussed the money and resources that have been dedicated to addressing housing and development issues we see in the U.S., like the program called House America. Almost 70 cities have agreed to help end homelessness. The cities committed to providing 20,000 new housing units by the end of this year for those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
“It is unfortunate that we have young people who go to school and don’t know whether they’re going to eat or sleep. But we do have resources available,” Fudge said. “So, reach out to your community … take on that challenge yourselves to at least raise the issue. Because if we don’t talk about it, we can’t fix it.”
She also discussed the $46 billion federal program for rental assistance that was meant for helping those who were at risk of being evicted from their homes. This program has now become a cause for concern as cash is being distributed so quickly to the states in need that many are running out of money, putting millions of tenants in danger. Fudge says to combat this growing issue, resources are being shifted and the program is being reevaluated.
“I think that you’re going to start to see that the problem is not going to be as great, but I think you also have to understand evictions were high in certain communities before the pandemic. We just stalled them for a while,” Fudge said. “But the problem is not going to be nearly as bad as it could have been had we not provided the almost $46 billion in rental assistance.”
While the government continues to work on existing programs, it is actively looking for ways to get the message out about the gravity of the current homeless situation in this country. At the start of 2020, about 580,000 people were homeless, according to the HUD Annual Homeless Assessment Report. The growing issue prompted a point in time count Wednesday evening as Fudge and volunteers all over the country went out and counted the number of homeless people in their communities.
“I think people would be shocked at the fact that most of the people who live on the streets today, don’t live there because they are mentally ill or they’re on drugs,” Fudge said. “Most of them will say it is the economy. They cannot afford to live in an apartment in most major cities in this country.”
Fudge left the students with words about how to make a change where it matters. She shared her philosophy and encouraged attendees to always help people who need it the most. When asked about her goals for this year toward the end of the briefing, she said all she cares about is helping others.
“I want to keep people housed and not sleeping on the street as those numbers become more and more families with children and senior citizens. I want to do so much,” Fudge said. “I don’t know that I can do it all, but my goals are the same. It’s just to take care of people, people who need us. So that’s what I get up every day to do.”