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Bush announces grants for homeless

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush traveled to a Washington charity Tuesday to announce he is providing more than $1 billion in grants to organizations that help the homeless.

"It is the largest such grant in the history of the country," Bush said during his visit to the "So Others Might Eat" (SOME) charity, where he made the announcement. "It is a grant program that will help provide food and shelter, drug treatment, job training and other vital services."

The initiative is part of an already existing program run by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which administers homeless assistance grants to non-governmental organizations. It also is in line with one of Bush's top priorities -- supporting faith-based charities with federal funds.

SOME is supported by the interfaith community, said the Rev. John Adams, the organization's director.

The U.S. House passed the president's faith-based initiative in early July, but not before scaling back the size of tax breaks available to low-income Americans who donate to charities from $86 billion to $8.6 billion. That bill has been on hold since the September 11 terror attacks, but there is some hope of passing a watered-down version of the bill by the end of the year.

Bush encouraged Americans to give to charitable organizations, saying their volunteerism and donations can help in the fight against terrorism.

"In order to make sure the home front is secure, in order to make sure we don't allow the terrorists to achieve any objective, Americans must give generously to programs like SOME -- community based programs that help make their neighborhoods a better place for all," Bush said. "I have been disturbed by reports that charitable giving has dropped off. I hope Americans will not substitute the gifts they've given in the aftermath of September 11 for neighborhood groups such as SOME."

HUD Secretary Mel Martinez -- who attended Tuesday's event -- has reactivated the interagency council on homelessness, according to Adams, and that will greatly help homeless people access the services they need.

"This administration is dedicated to serving the homeless ... and HUD is proud to be leading that effort," Martinez said, in his introduction of Bush.

Martinez also has a special appreciation for faith-based charities, Adams said.

"It was a faith-based group that brought him to this country as a refugee from Cuba and sent him on a path toward the American dream," Adams said.

-- CNN White House Correspondents John King and Kelly Wallace contributed to this report


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