Thursday in Washington, DC, we released Getting to Proof Points: Key Learning from the First Three Years of Built for Zero.
Julia Orlando is not interested in your excuses.
Talking on speaker phone from her office at the Bergen County Housing, Health and Human Services Center, she walks me through the work she and her team have undertaken over the last several years to tackle homelessness locally, first among veterans and more recently among those experiencing chronic— or long-term— homelessness.
Increased coordination: check. A countywide commitment to Housing First: check. Clear monthly performance targets: check. Real-time, person-specific data: check.
This week, we officially announced that Riverside County, CA had become the first large community in the country to reach Functional Zero, our rigorous definition of a clear and measurable end to veteran homelessness. Our team has worked with Riverside since 2015 as part of our Built for Zero initiative.
My interactions with communities, partners and funders in the work to end homelessness are typically energizing. I hear conversations that inspire and challenge me on a regular basis.
Over the last 18 months, communities participating in our Zero: 2016 initiative have proven time and time again that, if the right people are at the table with the necessary tools for the job, no challenge is too great nor too complex to overcome. We’ve also made huge progress together: participating communities have helped more than 53,000 Americans leave homelessness for permanent housing, and four communities have ended veteran homelessness entirely!
Once a month, we bring you the story of an individual who has overcome obstacles to health, housing or employment. Today, we want to tell you about the progress being made across a whole community–– Fairfield County, CT–– which is working to end chronic homelessness.
(The county is part of the larger effort to end chronic homelessness across Connecticut, one of four states participating in our Zero: 2016 initiative.)
Here’s what’s happened so far in Fairfield County:
“How many veterans need to be housed to reach functional zero?” This is one of the most common questions we encounter in our work with communities to end veteran homelessness. It also misses the point.