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Press Release: Abilene, Texas Reaches Functional Zero for Chronic Homelessness

November 18, 2020
(link to run chart)

Media Contact: Rosten Callarman
Phone: 361-652-7792
Email: rosten@unitedwayabilene.org

  • Abilene, TX joins an elite group of four communities in the country that has been recognized for reaching functional zero for chronic homelessness, making long-term homelessness rare.
  • Functional zero for chronic homelessness indicates that Abilene has achieved a gold standard system of support that helps the most vulnerable members of the community exit homelessness.
  • Chronic homelessness is long-lasting or recurring homelessness for a community’s most vulnerable neighbors. It is defined by the federal government as impacting people who have experienced homelessness for at least a year — or repeatedly over the last three years — while living with a disability.
  • To achieve this certification, the number of households experiencing chronic homelessness in the community must remain at three or below for at least three months, a reality that Abilene has maintained since November 2019.
  • Abilene will now focus on working toward solving youth and family homelessness.

ABILENE, TX — The City of Abilene has become the fourth community in the country to be certified for reaching functional zero for chronic homelessness, a gold standard for serving the most vulnerable people experiencing homelessness in a community. 

Chronic homelessness is long-lasting or recurring homelessness for a community’s most vulnerable neighbors. It is defined by the federal government as impacting people who have experienced homelessness for at least a year — or repeatedly over the last 3 years — while living with a disability.

A community has achieved functional zero when it can continually ensure chronic homelessness is rare — maintaining a reality where three or fewer people are experiencing this long-lasting homelessness. The national recognition comes from Built for Zero, an initiative of more than 80 cities and counties working to measurably end homelessness. This definition for solving chronic homelessness is shared between Built for Zero and the federal government. 

Katherine Bisson, Executive Director at Abilene Hope Haven, said: “Today’s announcement of reaching functional zero celebrates a community effort to ensure long-lasting homelessness is rare overall, and quickly resolved when it is identified. This does not mean that our community will never see another homeless neighbor again. But what this accomplishment does mean is that we have the system of support that can ensure our most vulnerable community members have a place to call home. We know that this milestone is just one step on a longer journey to better serve all of our neighbors. We will use this momentum to improve our support for youth and families as we work toward solving homelessness for everyone in Abilene.”

WORKING TOWARD SOLVING HOMELESSNESS FOR ALL

Timeline of Abilene, TX reaching functional zero
(link)

Abilene first reached the threshold for functional zero for chronic homelessness in November 2019. In order to be certified, it must maintain that reality. Led by Abilene Hope Haven, Inc., the local Built for Zero team unified the efforts of key agencies working locally to end homelessness. 

“Abilene demonstrated that a community can successfully address homelessness when the right players come together with a shared goal. This achievement would not have been possible without the hard work of multiple organizations working together and the use of real-time data to identify each chronically homeless person in need of shelter and support,” said Mayor Anthony Williams. “This milestone is just one step on a longer journey and we understand it will be critical for us to continue working together to maintain and continue our progress.” 

As part of Built for Zero, Abilene changed how its homeless response system works by adopting the core elements of the Built for Zero methodology. This includes:

  • Building a unified regional team, or a “command center,” around a shared goal of getting to functional zero.
  • Using real-time, person-specific data to know every person experiencing chronic homelessness or veteran experiencing homelessness by name and target efforts and resources accordingly.

“By reaching functional zero for chronic and veteran homelessness, Abilene demonstrated that it is on the leading edge of the national movement to measurably end homelessness,” said Habiba Rotter, Built for Zero Improvement Advisor. “Harnessing the power of data, this community created a new reality that ensures that residents experiencing chronic homelessness are known by-name, in real time, and supported by a system designed to get to zero homelessness.”

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Abilene Hope Haven, Inc. (AHH) was established in 1992 to address the needs of homeless individuals in Taylor County (city of Abilene). As a nonprofit organization and part of the Continuum of Care (CoC) for Texas Balance of State – Abilene, through the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Abilene Hope Haven, Inc, supports the performance of the region’s homeless response as a coordinated system and system’s planning process. Abilene Hope Haven also works to ensure access to assistance is offered equitably to all people experiencing homelessness through the coordinated assessment and referral system so that the most vulnerable citizens receive the help they need. To learn more about Abilene Hope Haven, Inc., visit www.abilenehopehaven.org and find them on Facebook and Instagram. Media Contact: Rosten Callarman, rosten@unitedwayabilene.org, 361-652-7792


Built for Zero
is a national initiative of 80 cities and counties that have committed to measurably ending homelessness, one population at a time. Using a data-driven methodology, these communities have changed how local homeless response systems work and the impact they can achieve. Learn more at www.builtforzero.org or follow us at @BuiltforZero. Media Contact: Bethany Snyder, bsnyder@community.solutions, 425-728-0079

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