Rosanne Haggerty, President of 100&Change awardee Community Solutions, shares the progress Built for Zero has made toward solving homelessness in 105 communities across the United States.
Over the last year, two stories about homelessness have been unfolding. The first has dominated the discourse: homelessness is a crisis. That story is true, and so is another: communities across the country are making progress on solving homelessness. Our task is to make this the prevailing story.
Through Built for Zero, Community Solutions supports 105 communities working to make homelessness rare and brief. These cities and counties are proving homelessness is solvable with a community-wide team focused on the shared aim of ending homelessness. They design strategies and target resources guided by the kind of person-centered, real-time information that has fueled other public health victories.
Learn more about the Built for Zero methodology being employed by communities across the country.
By 2026, we aim to have helped cities and counties of all types solve homelessness, forging a new reality where ending homelessness will be expected, not exceptional. As we mark year one of our five-year journey with MacArthur’s 100&Change award, we reflected on findings drawn from our evaluation partners ORS and Equal Measure, as well as our team. Here is a snapshot of what we learned.
Communities demonstrated the limits of receiving an influx of resources without the support to absorb them. Attrition continued to outpace hiring, depleting the health and human services workforce. Homeless service organizations that were already inadequately staffed struggled to absorb and expend federal pandemic-related funding. These circumstances highlighted the importance of having an appropriately resourced coordinating body accountable for reducing homelessness in every community.
Large cities were among communities demonstrating the possibility of progress. In 2022, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimated that rates of homelessness continued to rise, particularly in large cities on the West Coast. Against this backdrop, some cities inspired a sense of what is possible. For example, Detroit, the Metro Denver region, and Washington, D.C., reduced veteran homelessness by an average of 27 percent from 2020-2022, which was significantly higher than the national reduction in veteran homelessness of 11 percent over the same timeframe.
Sixty-four Built for Zero communities have achieved quality data and know who is experiencing homelessness, by name, in real time. You cannot solve a problem you cannot see, and communities have historically operated with a blurry snapshot of homelessness. Quality data is more like real-time video. It enables communities to understand who is experiencing homelessness, inflow and outflow, what strategies and investments result in reductions in homelessness, and where improvements are needed. With partners, we are exploring how to make quality data the standard, starting with improving technology and resources for staffing and training.
Learn about how communities are harnessing real-time, person-specific data to reduce homelessness.
Improved coordination, repurposed existing properties, and social impact finance can increase access to affordable housing. Building more affordable housing is critical, particularly in high-cost markets. Communities demonstrated that access could also be accelerated by improving the engagement of private landlords, converting shelter properties into housing, and preserving affordable housing using social impact capital. We found that social impact investors are ready to play their role, committing $126 million to acquire more than 500 units of affordable housing to help end veteran homelessness.
Finally, we heard that 90 percent of Built for Zero communities surveyed were "hopeful" to achieve functional zero, the state where homelessness is rare and brief. In 2022, we saw more than reason for hope. We saw clear evidence that even amidst challenges, progress is underway.
We can make this progress the prevailing story around homelessness and reinforce the message that it is solvable. We look forward to continuing our journey to make this a reality.
View Community Solutions' award recipient profile ›Community Solutions Awarded $100 Million to End Homelessness ›
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