THE PRESIDENT: 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 we’re 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 — they 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 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.
One area in particular I want to focus on is the issue of veterans. The rate of homelessness among veterans is much, much higher than for non-veteran populations. And so we’ve got — a number of the increases that we’re looking for in our budget on veterans funding directly addresses the issue of homeless veterans. That, I think, can provide some real help.
Ann Compton. Hey, Ann.
Q Sir — hey. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: You sound surprised. (Laughter.)
Q I am surprised. Could I ask you about race?
THE PRESIDENT: You may.
Q Yours is a rather historic presidency. And I’m just wondering whether in any of the policy debates that you’ve had within the White House, the issue of race has come up, or whether it has in the way you feel you’ve been perceived by other leaders or by the American people. Or has the last 64 days been a relatively colorblind time?