We’re blown away

By Garen Nigon, April 5, 2019 - 3:27pm

More than 400 people attended the Built for Zero Learning Session in Atlanta for two days of problem solving, planning, and celebrating.

Atlanta Learning Session

We’re blown away by what this movement has become. Two years ago, 87 people showed up in Los Angeles, committed to learning with us and from one another in order to end homelessness. Last week, more than 400 people from 60+ communities and our partners gathered in Atlanta for two days of problem solving, planning, and celebrating each other's work.

We applaud each community’s commitment to measurably reducing and ending homelessness. After each Learning Session, they’re challenged to go back to their communities with new ideas and action plans. They're tasked with bringing together each and every player to the table in their community, so that they can problem solve at the system level. They're committed to housing the hardest to reach and not accepting failure as an option. Communities are revolutionizing the way homelessness data is collected, tracked, and analyzed.

And they’re getting results: 10 communities have ended veteran homelessness. Three communities have ended chronic homelessness. Thirty-nine communities are on their way, making significant reductions in the number of people experiencing homelessness. Altogether nearly 105,000 people have been housed as part of this movement.

We’re so proud to be on this journey with Built for Zero communities.



With a resounding whoosh, Built for Zero welcomed our newest members: Anchorage, Alaska; Santa Fe, New Mexico; and Jackson, Mississippi.


Garen Nigon

Our participants set out to accomplish two objectives by the end of this Learning Session:

  1. Every person will have found 2-3 allies from other communities who can help break through barriers and brainstorm answers to their most burning questions.
  2. Teams would determine next steps related to will, ideas, and execution in their communities that would help them make gains in the coming Action Cycle.


“We had to move from ‘us versus them’ to 'us,'” says Brenda O’Connell on how Lake County was able to make progress on veteran homelessness.


Maurice Lattimore

"Words are important. I have walked into a lot of agencies for assistance and felt worse after I left than when I got there. Being part of that world helps me communicate. I can reach some people that others can’t reach,” says Maurice Lattimore, whose own experience of living without a home now informs his work as an Outreach Peer Specialist at Intown Collaborative Ministries in Atlanta.


Eddie Turner

“When you co-design with people, the changes stick,” says Eddie Turner, an Improvement Advisor for Built for Zero. “It helps us solve the unsolvable problems.”


The great networking challenge asked people to find allies, thought partners, and brainstorming buddies. 


We recognize the 10 new communities who have achieved a quality by-name list, a critical step in ending homelessness.


Milestone Alert: shifts give us a new reason to celebrate! A shift happens when data trends below the existing median for six months in a row. This milestone happens after achieving a quality by-name list and before reaching Functional Zero.


We celebrate our newest proof points — communities that have reached Functional Zero — through a torch relay.


“We’re committed to helping you, veteran by veteran, community by community, so that finish line we saw yesterday? We all cross it together,” says Shawn Liu of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.


“Homelessness doesn’t take a break. We know that you guys are out there in the trenches doing the hard work and we really want to support you,” says Karen Deblasio of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.


Joe Savage of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness applauded the work being done by Built for Zero communities, saying, “Your work is being heard, and it’s keeping homelessness on the agenda.”


How do you build the will to change systems in your community? Colin Groth of StriveTogether has faced this challenge in his organization’s work to help communities improve educational outcomes for children. “We come into systems, we get handed a set of responsibilities, we often execute those without ever looking up," says Groth. "I think, often, it’s those acts of symbolic trust building to say, ‘This isn’t just your problem — I’m part of this. We as a community are part of this. These are our kids, these are our data. What are we going to do now to make it better?’” 


Ashlee Brown

Community Solutions’ Ashlee Brown (shown above) and Leslie Wise explain why race equity is essential to any strategy for ending homelessness. By February 2020, Built for Zero will be ready to operationalize a racial equity strategy to build and improve more equitable homeless response systems.


More than 400 people from 60+ communities and our partners gathered in Atlanta for the 2019 spring Built for Zero Learning Session.


This Learning Session, we brought back the Lip-Sync Battle, by popular demand. Rockford’s Angie Walker emceed the event.

To view more photos, go to our Facebook album.


Thank you to our partners

A huge thank you to the continued support and investment of our partners, including those below who were able to join us in Atlanta:

Federal Partners
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness

Built for Zero Partners
A Way Home America, Center for Social Innovation, Institute for Healthcare Improvement, Built for Zero Canada, A Way Home Washington

Lead Sponsor
Quicken Loans

Strategic Sponsors
Home Depot Foundation, Ballmer Group, Tableau Foundation, Kaiser Permanente

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