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BFZ welcomes new communities during the Spring 2022 Learning Session in Chicago

  |  May 11, 2022

During the first in-person Learning Session in over two years, Built for Zero welcomed many new communities into the movement. With new representation in New York and California, our first communities in Indiana and Montana, along with five “hubs” across the state of Maine, the total number of Built for Zero communities now stretches beyond 100 across the U.S.

The new communities are:

Read more about each of the new BFZ communities below!
*Some responses have been edited for length and clarity.


River and bridge in Buffalo, NY

Buffalo/Erie County, New York

One of the biggest challenges our community faces in ending homelessness:

The housing options we are currently providing.

Homelessness is solvable because…

…when we start using Coordinated Entry and Housing First, our numbers of people experiencing chronic homelessness and people with mental illness/substance issues drop in half.


Lighthouse on cliff in Maine

Maine Hub 1: York

Why our community wanted to join Built for Zero:

To be part of the big picture as well as the team to help end homelessness within our community.

Our community’s superpowers:

We have a strong group of dedicated staff and community members within most of our nonprofits in the community to help end homelessness.

One of the biggest challenges our community faces in ending homelessness:

There is not enough affordable housing with or without vouchers.

What we wish people understood about homelessness:

That people do not want to be homeless.

Homelessness is solvable because…

We have the ability to end homelessness with the current resources available.


Maine Hub 2: Cumberland

Why our community wanted to join Built for Zero:

The Cumberland County Hub represents the greatest number of individuals experiencing homelessness in Maine. If we end homelessness here, we are addressing approximately 47%* of the statewide homelessness need. This potential impact is a powerful motivator.  Team members are also closely connected to other hubs across the state (in overlapping services or resources that geographically cross hub boundaries), providing ready opportunities to share learnings with those not part of the Built For Zero initiative at this time.

“We have energy and passion around this work, as well as a strong foundation of partnership, experience, and practices that are readily adaptable to Built For Zero’s approach.”

NEW BFZ COmmunity of maine hub 2: cumberland

We have energy and passion around this work, as well as a strong foundation of partnership, experience, and practices that are readily adaptable to Built For Zero’s approach — all supporting our readiness. However, we need structure and technical assistance to bring our efforts to the next level; to address homelessness in a truly systemic way and achieve functional zero.

Local partners operate in a loose version of a Built For Zero command center, though we recognize and welcome the opportunities for a more defined version of this approach. We also have a great deal of data available to us, but it is not real-time data which we know to be a more powerful tool.

Our community’s superpowers:

• Hub members are able to collaboratively provide a rapid response for emergency needs — where the city can call upon providers to respond to and meet needs.
• Hub partners have proven their ability to be nimble and creative in meeting the needs of the unhoused.
• The welcoming nature of the community in general provides a strong foundation for success. It is reflected in the strong city involvement and can be pointed to as a reason why providers (bolstered by an influx of volunteers) were able to work together so successfully in responding to the influx of immigrants and the challenges of the pandemic.

One of the biggest challenges our community faces in ending homelessness:

There are not enough shelter beds and not enough affordable housing units.


Dock on lake

Maine Hub 6: Central

Why our community wanted to join Built for Zero:

“Having a well-coordinated and aligned response system to homelessness in our region is critical to building political will and building public awareness of the BFZ approach and its goals to help our state reach functional zero.”

new bfz community, maine hub 6: somerset & kennebec

There is tremendous energy in Kennebec County to address the issue of rising homelessness. In addition to human service agencies like shelters and community action agencies, we also have municipal buy-in. We have never seen this level of commitment across all sectors. With the right catalyst, we are poised to build a fantastic system from the ground up. There is willingness to do the heavy lifting, whatever it takes, to address the crisis unfolding locally.

It is also an opportunity for us to engage smaller communities and stakeholders in Somerset County which has been largely left out of the conversation. If part of the purpose of joining the BFZ team is being able to learn and model how to do this in places where this kind of working is new, we have the lack of experience combined with a coalition of the willing. Having a well-coordinated and aligned response system to homelessness in our region is critical to building political will and building public awareness of the BFZ approach and its goals to help our state reach functional zero.

Our community’s superpowers:

Historically we have been very siloed. But the pandemic has required us to think more strategically, and over the last two years we have begun the necessary work of changing how we think about this work. We have two homeless shelters who have continued to provide services throughout the pandemic. We have also engaged civic leaders in the two largest cities of Waterville and Augusta who are keen to strengthen our commitment to developing a regional approach to homeless services. The elements of a strong regional collaboration exist and just need the right spark to set this region alight.

One of the biggest challenges our community faces in ending homelessness:

First, we are running out of affordable housing. Stock is down and prices are up. Central Maine has never been as severely impacted by the affordable crisis as it is now. Additionally, the region lacks dedicated shelter or supportive housing for unaccompanied homeless youth. We also need to adopt evidence-based practices across the system and to utilize data to drive decision making. Finally, we need to secure funding to ensure high-quality, low-barrier and appropriate/targeted resources can be maintained. Specifically, shelter is the right resource for some, but we have no permanent funding for rapid rehousing including diversion, and this will be critical to ensuring beds are utilized effectively and achieving our functional zero goals for all people experiencing homelessness. Finally, linkages to other public systems that interface with households experiencing homelessness — legal services, law enforcement, jails, and health systems — need to be brought into a wider conversation and planning process.

What we wish people understood about homelessness:

That it can happen to anyone, it is not always a choice, and that those that are experiencing it are human beings that deserve to be helped and not ignored.

Homelessness is solvable because…

We have communities that care enough to want to support those experiencing it.


Maine Hub 7: Penquis

Why our community wanted to join Built for Zero:

Hub 7 seeks the support of Built For Zero because homelessness is an identified regional priority, creating and perpetuating trauma for our community members. This has been identified in multiple health and human service needs assessments in the last year. The Bangor region’s Community Health Leadership Board — a collaborative of health care, municipal, and human service leaders — have identified homelessness as a public health priority of great concern.

“Homelessness is solvable because other communities have done it!”

New bFZ Community, MAine hub 7: Penquis

Our community’s superpowers:

  • There is a history of ongoing collaboration across leadership and frontline staff of Bangor-region stakeholder organizations (municipal, shelter, mental health, health care, affordable housing developers, and economic development, etc.).
  • A few select assets that the region has are a wide availability of housing navigation services at three different shelters, the City of Bangor, and Community Health and Counseling Services. All of these key homeless response providers for the region are long-standing, experienced, financially stable providers.

One of the biggest challenges our community faces in ending homelessness:

  • First and foremost, there is a lack of housing to place people that meets their needs for success: permanent supportive housing, transitional housing, low barrier/Housing First housing, and permanent affordable housing.
  • There is very limited access to services in northern/rural Penobscot and Piscataquis Counties to prevent homelessness and help current homeless individuals.

What we wish people understood about homelessness:

No community, organization, or individual can solve this on their own.

Homelessness is solvable because…

…other communities have done it!


River in forest with sunshine

Main Hub 9: Aroostook

Why our community wanted to join Built for Zero:

We have a mission to serve all the people in our community and with homelessness being on a steady increase, Built For Zero made perfect sense.

Our community’s superpowers:

Community collaboration, coming together when there is a need, and small community kindness!

One of the biggest challenges our community faces in ending homelessness:

A housing shortage.

What we wish people understood about homelessness:

That homelessness is not always a choice, or lack of motivation. There are life situations that can not be controlled and homelessness is sometimes a result of that. 

Homelessness is solvable because…

…other communities have proven it can happen!


Town below snowy mountains

Missoula, Montana

Why our community wanted to join Built for Zero:

Missoula is an amazing place to live. Our community is full of genuine and good people that want to do better. We already have fabulous organizations and team members that work to end homelessness and provide our community resources. However, we are always looking for ways to improve our current processes. Built for Zero will provide us the opportunity to evaluate our current systems and make them better.

“We wish people understood that it’s an entire system that is broken (due to the housing crisis, policy, etc). Community organizations are striving to fix this every single day, even if you cannot see it.”

new bfz community of missoula, montana

Our community’s superpowers:

Some of our community’s superpowers include compassionate and collaborative individuals, a great food bank, tons of nonprofits, new opportunities, lots of “unicorn” people, supportive elected officials, being a university town, and having a great foundation for Coordinated Entry already in place.

One of the biggest challenges our community faces in ending homelessness:

Challenges our community faces in ending homelessness include agencies stuck in an old way of doing things, high barriers, low wages for workers, a housing crisis, community education, policy that needs changing, extreme lack of safe and affordable housing, and more.

What we wish people understood about homelessness:

We wish people understood that it’s an entire system that is broken (due to the housing crisis, policy, etc). In addition, that community organizations are striving to fix this every single day, even if you cannot see it.

Homelessness is solvable because…

….our community makes strides towards solving homelessness everyday. We already have a team of committed workers. We know we are capable of solving this if we have the right processes and tools in place.


Pasadena bridge at dusk

Pasadena Continuum of Care, California

Why our community wanted to join Built for Zero:

The Pasadena Continuum of Care (CoC) is a tightly knit community of service providers, dedicated community members, and active stakeholders. We are (comparatively) well-resourced and we are a small enough CoC that we can be relatively nimble and implement new approaches with fewer barriers than a large county CoC. For these reasons, we are well-positioned to commit to new methods to make measurable strides toward reducing homelessness in our community.

“Homelessness is caused by broken systems and a severe shortage of affordable housing, not by individual choices and personal failures.”

new bfz community of pasadena, california

Our community’s superpowers:

Our community has a strong network of services providers who regularly work very closely together to serve people experiencing homelessness. We know the people living on our streets well — their names and stories and barriers. We have well-organized and passionate advocates throughout our community who support the work that we do vocally (at every City Council meeting!).

What we wish people understood about homelessness:

Homelessness is caused by broken systems and a severe shortage of affordable housing, not by individual choices and personal failures.

Homelessness is solvable because…

…we created it, so we can undo it. It wasn’t always this way. It isn’t this way in lots of other places. There are changes we can make to turn things around.


South Central Indiana

Why our community wanted to join Built for Zero:

“The solution to homelessness is housing. Every person is ready for housing. Homelessness doesn’t define an individual. Homelessness is not a crime.”

NEW BFZ Community of SOUTH CENTRAL INDIANA

In 2021, our community came together to develop a collective response to addressing acute housing needs. This work resulted in the Heading Home plan, a guide to supporting long-term, systemic, and regional solutions to reduce homelessness and strengthen housing security. In the process of developing the Heading Home plan, we identified promising practices in other communities, including several that were already partners with Built for Zero. It became clear that Built for Zero provided valuable strategic support for our efforts to reduce homelessness. As the first community in Indiana to join Built for Zero, we are excited to be a part of this important network.

Our community’s superpowers:

Public/private partnerships are already established with dedicated funding for this issue. We have community buy-in beyond service providers. Communication is good between agencies.

One of the biggest challenges our community faces in ending homelessness:

Lack of affordable housing. Secondarily, building a regional approach and getting everyone on board with a Housing First approach.

What we wish people understood about homelessness:

The solution to homelessness is housing. Every person is ready for housing. Homelessness doesn’t define an individual. Homelessness is not a crime.

Homelessness is solvable because…

…homelessness is a housing problem, not a moral problem.


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