Every Person Deserves a Place to Call Home for the Holidays

Where will you spend your Thanksgiving?

If you spend it with family or friends around a table piled high with a feast, and maybe followed by a football game, you have much to be thankful for.

Every person deserves a safe, stable place to call home. But in the wealthiest nation in the world, more than half a million Americans sleep on the streets or spend their Thanksgiving in a homeless shelter. Many of them are children.

We can't tolerate our most vulnerable populations or those who have served our nation left out in the cold. That's why in 2010 President Obama launched Opening Doors, the first federal strategic plan to address homelessness. His plan set ambitious goals to not only reduce homelessness, but to end it.

We have made notable progress. Last week, HUD announced its annual homeless estimates, which showed we've reduced homelessness among veterans and families. Since 2010, overall homelessness is down 11 percent, and 36 percent among veterans. And nearly half of all unsheltered veterans -- those who are living on the streets or in abandoned buildings, cars or parks -- have been stably housed since 2010. More than a dozen cities of all sizes, and the entire Commonwealth of Virginia, have already announced an effective end to veteran homelessness, showing that this goal can be achieved -- one community at a time. And we will keep working hard because, despite the positive strides our nation has made, we have a long way to go before we can end homelessness for good. Fortunately, if we take the lessons learned from our progress reducing veteran homelessness and apply them to chronic or family homelessness, we will continue the downward trend.

To end homelessness, we must redouble our efforts at every level of government and among our nonprofit and private sectors, make the most of every tool we have and continue to fight for adequate funding. The shrinking federal budget fails to provide HUD and our partners with the resources we need to effectively support the people we serve. Right now, HUD can only serve one of every four Americans eligible for our services, and Congress has proposed further cuts.

In addition to this, our nation is struggling with an affordable housing crisis. As rents climb higher and credit is difficult to access, Americans are squeezed and desperate for the opportunity to buy their own homes and lift themselves out of poverty. This is the American dream, one that Norman Rockwell's Thanksgiving family symbolized: freedom from want, sharing a meal in a safe, warm home.

In this effort, we can offer shelter to veterans who have served our nation and show them that their sacrifices are appreciated. We can protect the LGBT youth who are rejected by their families and looking for a safe shelter. Yes, we can house every child and give them a chance to grow up in a safe environment that allows them to reach their God-given potential.

We at HUD do this work because we believe that every person counts. We believe that everyone is worthy of an investment in their future, and the opportunity to live with dignity. In every neighborhood, we will continue to be a strong partner in the fight to end homelessness once and for all.

So whether you celebrate a Rockwellian Thanksgiving or a holiday with your adopted family eating tofurkey, take a moment to express your gratitude for all that you have, and together let's reaffirm our commitment to ending homelessness.