President Clinton gave a Christmas gift to America's homeless yesterday: $900 million in grants to help them with housing, job training, mental health services and drug abuse treatment.
"Here at home, we're reaching out to the poorest among us--to those who do not yet share in America's growing prosperity," Clinton said in his weekly radio address. "We're making new efforts to reach out to the homeless, to help them find housing, medical care and jobs."
The homeless grants are from the Housing and Urban Development Department and are aimed at funding more than 2,000 projects in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The White House estimated the grants will help 245,000 homeless people.
The announcement came as Clinton enjoyed a quiet Christmas at the White House with wife Hillary, daughter Chelsea and other family members. The Clintons wished Americans a merry Christmas and a happy new year in a videotaped Christmas card taped earlier in the week.
"At the dawn of this new millennium, let us reflect on our hopes, our dreams, and the gifts we can give to the future," said Hillary Clinton. "Let us all cherish the gift of every child among us and pledge to build a world worthy of all our children."
The president thanked American men and women serving in the military at duties around their world for their service. "Thank you for the greatest gift of the season, for protecting our nation and safeguarding the blessings we all hold dear," he said.
The Clintons were going to eat well on Christmas, according to a dinner menu released by the White House. Some of the highlights: asparagus, artichoke and roasted tomato salad; corn, green bean and sweet salad; winter vegetable soup; sweet potato casserole; mashed potatoes; peas and carrots; turkey with herbed bread stuffing; and peppered ham.
And the desserts: chocolate cake with white icing, pumpkin pie with glazed ginger, lemon meringue pie, cherry pie, fresh fruits, vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce, and Christmas cookies.
The release of the homeless grants, which was already in the federal budget and approved by the Republican-led Congress, was timed to coincide with the traditional season of giving.
A total of $750 million of the HUD assistance is targeted for programs to provide homeless people with transitional and permanent housing, and fund social services such as job training, child care, substance abuse treatment and mental health services.
Nonprofit organizations receiving money include chapters of the Salvation Army, Volunteers of America and Catholic Charities.
The other $150 million comes from the Emergency Shelter Grants program for 311 local jurisdictions in the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
The money can be used to improve the quality of existing emergency shelters and make available additional shelters and transitional housing.
In this area, the District will receive $8.7 million, Virginia $14.2 million and Maryland $19.4 million.
Clinton said in his radio address that in the spirit of the season, Americans are donating food, clothes and medicine to survivors in flood-ravaged Venezuela, where as many as 30,000 people have been killed. On Thursday, Clinton authorized the Pentagon to use up to $20 million in supplies to help Venezuela, adding to the $5.5 million in aid already committed by Washington.