Every person who is homeless goes on our by-name list … It makes a huge difference – they stop being ‘the homeless’ and become people we all know.
Jennifer Jaeger, Rockford IllinOis
In the US, 85 cities and counties have joined a programme called Built for Zero, with 11 reaching a standard called “functional zero” for chronic or veteran homelessness, meaning people in those populations now become homeless only rarely and for very short periods. Another 47 have achieved measurable reductions.
Its methodology, developed by a non-profit organisation, Community Solutions, is based on the conviction that homelessness is not just a housing, public health or policy issue, but a complex problem that requires everyone working on it to collaborate in counting down, individual by individual, to zero.
A centralised, command-and-control approach, which Community Solutions likens to the coordinated, community-wide surveillance systems that once led, for example, to the eradication of smallpox, is informed by comprehensive, detailed, real-time and by-name data on every person in the community who is homeless.
Only this depth of data will allow communities to really know their homeless people, find appropriate solutions for each one, optimise their resources, develop a successful strategy and share what works with other cities, the organisation believes: it is not just about resources, but devising a faster, smarter, more coordinated system.