More than 568,000 people experienced homelessness on a given night in the United States—before the pandemic. Homelessness shortens lives by years, undermines health, interrupts schooling for children, leaves lifelong scars, and prevents adults from finding and holding jobs. Longstanding approaches to homelessness have enabled it to become a pervasive and enduring crisis across the country.
The country’s homelessness crisis is deeply intertwined with historical and contemporary racism, disproportionately impacting Black people and Native Americans. Black people represent 13 percent of the United States population but make up 48 percent of individuals who are experiencing homelessness.
Community Solutions powers Built for Zero, a network of 84 communities that use a rigorous, data-driven, public health approach to reduce and end homelessness. Using this approach, 15 communities have ended chronic or veteran homelessness.
Community Solutions supports communities in building robust, data-driven systems that make homelessness rare and brief, an end state called “functional zero.” The initiative brings together local government agencies and nonprofit organizations to work as a single community team to achieve a population-level result. The organization coaches local leaders on using individual-level, real-time data to gain a comprehensive understanding of the dynamics of homelessness in their community. Using data, communities are able to identify key opportunities to intervene, track and improve outcomes, and target resources to address gaps in housing. Community Solutions regularly convenes community teams from across the country to facilitate peer learning, train local leaders in key skills, and sustain momentum for ambitious change.
The team made the following changes to its proposal since it was first submitted in August of 2019, informed by additional research, project development, and authentic engagement with communities of interest—defined as beneficiaries, those who might suffer harm, other funders, and competitors.
Community Solutions’ revised proposal responds to a national moment that is primed for—and demanding of—bold and urgent progress on homelessness in the United States.
- We embedded into our core strategy a commitment to helping communities measure and design a racially equitable homeless response system. As with any system, a homeless response system that is not explicitly designed to identify and respond to racial inequity will potentially sustain and even deepen it. With input from community leaders, partners, and people with lived experience of homelessness, we developed a framework to equip communities with indicators and measures to signal progress.
- We will seize this political and cultural moment to change federal incentives, policies, and public accountability around ending homelessness. In order to translate proof of what is possible into a new national norm, we must invest in creating public accountability and cementing policies that will scale and sustain change. This policy and communications work will build on existing federal and state agency relationships and existing healthcare partnerships. We will work to shift funding and performance incentives to reward communities for reducing and ending homelessness and for removing data, technology, and governance obstacles to progress.
- Based on growing evidence from our own pilot, we expanded plans to provide pass-through resources for communities on the cusp of ending homelessness for a population. We have deployed pass-through, flexible funding to help communities solve challenges blocking their progress to zero, making nine investments in eight communities. To date, four communities have achieved functional zero and four more are on track to reach zero in 2021. Based on this learning, we increased the amount dedicated to flexible investments to help communities end veteran or chronic homelessness.
About Our Team
Community Solutions is a team of 66 people working to end homelessness. Our team supports 84 communities working to measurably end homelessness by harnessing the power of systems thinking, quality improvement, and data-driven solutions.
Rosanne Haggerty, President
Paulette Martin, COO
Jamie Schleck, CFO
Beth Sandor, Principal, Built for Zero
Jake Maguire, Principal, Built for Zero
Jessica Venegas, Principal, Strategic Partnerships
Dave Foster, Principal, Real Estate
Anna Kim, Principal, Strategic Communications
Ana Paula Delja, Director of Strategic Partnerships, Community Solutions 626) 512-2324
Community Solutions' project website ›
“How Field Catalysts Galvanize Social Change”
Stanford Social Innovation Review
“How Many Americans Are Homeless? No One Knows”
The New York Times
“3 cities in the U.S. have ended chronic homelessness: Here’s how they did it”
“Moving from Charity to Justice in Our Work to End Homelessness”
Rosanne Haggerty, Journal of Vincentian Social Action
“Getting to Proof Points: Key Learning from the First Three Years of Built for Zero”
Built for Zero Impact Report
Twitter: @cmtysolutions, @builtforzero
Facebook: @cmtysolutions, @builtforzero
YouTube: Community Solutions, Built for Zero