Did you hear the press conference this evening? I caught part of it, and this part was extra juicy. So glad this issue is starting to gain momentum.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. A recent report found that as a result of the economic downturn, one in 50 children are now homeless in America. With shelters at full capacity, tent cities are sprouting up across the country.
In passing your stimulus package, you said that help was on the way, but what would you say to these families, especially children, who are sleeping under bridges and in tents across the country?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, the first thing I’d say is that I’m heartbroken that any child in America is homeless.
And the most important thing that I can do on their behalf is to make sure their parents have a job. And that’s why the recovery package said, as a first priority, how are we going to save or create 3.5 million jobs? How can we prevent layoffs for teachers and police officers? How can we make sure that we are investing in the infrastructure for the future that can put people back to work right away? How do we make sure that when people do lose their jobs, that their unemployment insurance is extended, that they can keep their health care?
So there are a whole host of steps that we’ve done to provide a cushion for folks who have fallen on very hard times and to try to spur immediate projects that can put people back to work.
Now, in the meantime, we’ve got to work very closely with the states to monitor and to help people who are still falling through the cracks.
And, you know, the homeless problem was bad even when the economy was good. Part of the change in attitudes that I want to see here in Washington and all across the country is a belief that it is not acceptable for children and families to be without a roof over their heads in a country as wealthy as ours. And so we’re going to be initiating a range of programs as well to deal with homelessness.