Reducing Homelessness to Zero

An effort is developing to accomplish that and some areas have done it according to this story from the New York Times, with a hat tip to Pike Oliver’s excellent blog, Urbanexus, at 

An excerpt.

If you’re eager to be reminded that humane and inspiring civic leadership still exists, read on. Over the past three years, nine communities in the United States have reached a rigorous standard known as “functional zero” for either veteran or chronic homelessness — a standard that indicates that homelessness is rare and much briefer than in the past for their populations — and 37 others have accomplished measurable reductions toward that goal.

What’s illuminating is how they’re doing it: by making whole systems smarter.

For the first time, many communities across the country are collecting and maintaining real-time data and lists of the names of people experiencing homelessness, and from those deepening their understanding of the dynamics of a complex and ever-changing problem. They’re also imitating the kind of command-center-led coordination efforts that have been crucial to historic public health victories, such as the eradication of small pox and the near-eradication of polio. And they are linking in a national network, capturing and sharing effective strategies, as they emerge, to improve their performance.

Rockford, Ill., was the first community in the United States to reach the functional zero level for veterans and the second to do so for chronic homelessness. “We’ve gone to a centralized system and extremely expanded our outreach,” said Jennifer Jaeger, the city’s community services director. “Every person who is homeless in our community that we are aware of goes on our by-name list, which is broken out by subpopulations: chronic, veteran, family, single and youth.”

“Then we get everybody in our community who works on the issue, whether it’s veteran or chronic or youth homelessness, and we bring them into a room,” she added. “So if we’re working on veterans, we’ll have the V.A., the local veteran agencies, mental health agencies and substance abuse agencies, and we’ll sit down with the list and say: ‘O.K., John Smith is No. 1. Who’s working with him? How do we get him housed as fast as we can?’ And we go literally name by name. It makes a huge difference because they stop being ‘the homeless’ and become people we all know. And we become very vested in making sure John Smith is housed and safe and has the services he needs to stay housed.”

Retrieved June 11, 2018 from


About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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