Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks to the Press on Announcing a Plan for a Pilot Health and Housing Project in Washington

January 20, 1968

Dr. Swan and the National Medical Association, Mayor Washington, and other leaders here have outlined to me this morning a plan that they are working on in cooperation with the Secretaries of HEW and HUD that will get at one of the problems that is troubling us all, namely, the care of our aged and the medical treatment of our aged and the housing of our aged.

They will review with you some of the details of what they have in mind. We are going to try to evolve a program here in the District of Columbia that will be a model and a sample for the rest of the country.

We are doing that in several fields. Mayor Washington can go into that. He has made remarkable progress since he took over a short time ago.

We don't want this to be just a conversation piece. We want results. We are planning an extended-care facility in the vicinity of Howard University. This will operate in close association with the resources of the Howard Medical School. It would be established for this purpose. We don't want to tie it down, but just to give you some vision of what we might be talking about, it would be in the neighborhood of a $3 million investment in comprehensive health service, including ultimately: (1) a medical building equipped for group medical practice, (2) a skilled nursing home, (3) social care institutions, (4) housing for the elderly, and (5) a neighborhood service center for our senior citizens.

So here in that complex you could have a place where your mother and father could go in their old age and be decently housed, and where a group of doctors could have facilities for treating people in that area, connected with the Howard University Medical School, where they have some several thousand students in undergraduate work in law and medicine.

There is nothing I know of that we need more of in this country than our health and housing care for the poor and for the elderly, unless it is housing care for the young. The old have trouble walking and the young don't know how. That is why we had infant care, jobs, housing, and health in our message the other day.

We are trying to set up a sample. We spent Saturday morning talking about it.

I also have been giving them a little of my philosophy about what we ought to do with the time allotted. They can go into any details they want.

Mayor, you might outline for this group, if they are interested, the five things on this list here.

The Secretaries of HEW and HUD can answer anything they want to. If any of you have any questions you want to ask me, I will answer. I don't want to have a press conference, but I will take some questions before I leave.


Q. Mr. President, this is the third or fourth grant that you have arranged for Mayor Washington of this kind since he took office. Could you expand on that a little? Is this something you are going to try to do as long as you can to make Washington a model by providing this kind of funds and assistance from your department?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. We have the District of Columbia as one of the 14 cities that are designated to participate in the 14-city pilot program for comprehensive one-step neighborhood service centers. That is being funded.

There is a lot of gobbledygook there, but we want a neighborhood service center. We are trying it in 14 cities. If it functions there, we can extend it.

We want the Nation's Capital to be one of the first cities in a concentrated unemployment program. We talked about that the other night. We are going to try to get 500,000 hard-core jobs.

We want the Nation's Capital to have a 335-acre new-town in-town project to provide low- and middle-income housing for 20,000 to 25,000 residents.

We want the Nation's Capital to be in the President's pilot five-city job program. That is the forerunner of the national program announced in the State of the Union the other night.

We want Washington to be a model city that will take all of these Federal services and give them special attention. It is one of the 63 model cities for which we are asking $1 billion in the budget this year.

I don't want to make a speech about it, but the one thing that I really want to do in the few months or few years I may be in the Presidency is get a good, inexpensive house where poor people can live under sanitary conditions. We have not done that yet.

We have a lot of FHA, public housing and high rises and all these fancy names, but we just don't have some concrete walls and concrete floors that do not fall down and sanitary wash basins and shower-where a real poor person can afford them.

We have to do that. I want to get a nursing home where your mothers and fathers, mother-in-law and father-in-law--when they get to a certain age and they will not live with you; they don't want their son-in-law or daughter-in-law taking care of them-where they can go and live out their life in decency.

It takes a lot of people working on a baby to keep a baby sanitary. I know, I have been babysitting.

My mother died of cancer. It took a lot of people to care for her. She protested up until the day she died that she did not want anyone looking after her. She was a proud Woman.

There are a lot of them in the country. I want to see that they have a nursing home and medical facilities where they can go with their chins up and their chests out-and proud. That is what we are trying to work on here this morning.

Dr. Swan has a plan for a $3 million program. With the fine medical facilities of Howard University, we are going to put it in an area where these people can get it. We are going to try to provide economical housing with facilities and built in a way where they don't have to climb a lot of steps or climb a tree like the tomboys.

But it will be something planned for older people. That is what we are working on. It is a challenge to Bob Weaver and John Gardner and Dr. Swan. They are going to try to remind some of you young people that you do not spend enough time these days really carrying out the injunctions of "Honour thy father and thy mother."

Those of you who are fortunate enough to be blessed--those of us who are here today--have to spend a little of our time thinking of those who are too weak to take care of themselves. It may be a baby who was born handicapped because his mother had German measles. We wiped that out last year. We have that behind us but there are so many other things we have to do.

That is what we have been talking about.

Does that answer your question?

Q. Yes.

Q. Mr. President, have you a specific timetable for this project?

THE PRESIDENT. The quicker the better. Yesterday. It will take months. We will survey, explore, consider, collaborate, have criteria and all of these gobbledygooks, but if we just hammer enough, it will get done.

I have tried to break through as many ravines as I could this morning to get in down where you could understand what we are talking about. I hope we will be moving along. Dr. Weaver and Dr. Gardner can tell you, with Dr. Swan, how long it will take.

But I wish it had been yesterday. We are too late. This restlessness is justified in situations like this. Some of you were with me in San Antonio and you saw what could be done in that apartment we built there for old people.

We are trying to do something about it. I am trying to do something about it for the young, for the old, and I hope those of us in the middle can help on it while we can.

Q. On a national basis, aside from this timetable, if this works out, how long might it be before we see this kind of an operation nationally?

THE PRESIDENT. I think that depends on who is President, how much Congress votes, how successful we are on the pilot project. I would hope that it would go like wildfire.

If we could ever get a "T" model nursing home that could be produced like the "T" model Ford was, I believe it would catch on and go over the country. Johnson City, Texas, needs a good one. Stonewall, Texas, needs a good one.

The bigger you are, the more it is needed. The question is how do we plan it, and how do we enlist the attention of the people of this country to help us get it built.

This is just the first step. The Federal Government can go in to 90 percent of the funds, underwriting them. This National Medical Association has gone out and has taken their resources.

They have several hundred thousand dollars in the bank, and they will put that up. They will provide the management and the direction. If it works, maybe other associations throughout the country will do it. If it fails, you fellows will have a field day.

Note: The President spoke at 12:30 p.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. In his opening words he referred to Dr. Lionel F. Swan, President of the National Medical Association, and Walter E. Washington, Commissioner of the District of Columbia. Following the President's remarks John W. Gardner, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, Robert C. Weaver, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and Dr. Swan responded to further questions from the press (4 Weekly Comp. Pres. Docs., p. 97).

The plan was transmitted to the President with a letter from Secretaries Gardner and Weaver dated January 18 and released January 20. The letter stated that HEW, HUD, and the National Medical Association had agreed to join in a pilot undertaking to develop comprehensive health and housing facilities for the urban poor, particularly the elderly, in a number of cities throughout the Nation. The text of the letter and the plan is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 4, p. 100).

As printed above, this item follows the text released by the White House Press Office.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks to the Press on Announcing a Plan for a Pilot Health and Housing Project in Washington Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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