Working towards a future without homelessness

Housing and Homelessness

18 August 2021

Photo provided by Community Solutions

Homelessness is the result of marginalised and disenfranchised people colliding with broken systems, and an estimated 500,000 people experience homelessness in the US on any given night. However, communities across the US are demonstrating that these systems can be fixed, and homelessness has been solved in some cities through Community Solutions’ Built for Zero initiative.

Community Solutions (CS), a US-based not-for-profit organisation, helps cities and counties in the United States measurably and equitably end homelessness. It does this through its initiative Built for Zero, a large-scale change effort that uses data and collaboration to help communities create systems designed to continuously end homelessness. The methodology understands that no single actor is often fully accountable for ending homelessness within a community, but that each agency working to do so holds a small piece of the solution. Communities in Built for Zero measures success by reducing the total number of people experiencing homelessness, and collects the real-time, by-name data necessary to test systems changes, as well as target and secure housing resources. It does this by working to develop and support a locally based ‘command centre team’ of key organisations in a city or town, to make all of the pieces that keep people in their homes fit together.

Since the Built for Zero initiative began in 2019, 14 communities have functionally ended veteran or chronic homelessness. One of these cities is Rockford, Ilinois. “Making the list of names was absolutely vital,” said former Mayor of Rockford Larry Morrisey. “The first step to doing population health management is knowing who your population is.”

“Our team has sought a comprehensive solution to homelessness since modern homelessness emerged in our country in the 1980s,” said a CS executive team member. “By last year, with evidence in hand, we could confidently describe what a future without homelessness would look like and how it could be achieved.”

Because of the tremendous success CS has had in scaling and transferring Built for Zero to new cities, CS was recently announced as an award recipient of the MacArthur Foundation’s 100 & Change competition. Its prize was a staggering USD 100 million, to allow CS to accelerate the impact of its Built for Zero initiative, helping 75 cities across the US measurably end homelessness for a population.

You can find out more about CS by visiting its website and watching this video. This grant falls under our Housing and Homelessness Programme (HHP), which works to tackle the structural causes of homelessness. HHP’s partners are working to create a fairer society by building strong communities where everyone can thrive and live dignified lives. Read about the strategy of our programme, as well as work being carried out by our partners here.

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