Ending homelessness

The future we can build, together

Imagine the future with us. 


It’s 2026. Cities and counties of all kinds — big and small, urban and rural, red and blue — have made homelessness rare and brief. Homelessness is no longer seen as intractable, and ending it is no longer seen as exceptional. It’s expected.

The experience of homelessness has changed.

Most people receive the support they need to avoid experiencing homelessness in the first place. The few people who do lose their housing aren’t lost in a byzantine system. Instead, their names and needs are immediately known by the community and addressed in a timely and dignified way. The systems and services that are meant to help people into housing deliver equally excellent outcomes for everyone, regardless of race or ethnicity. 

Homelessness is no longer accepted as a heartbreaking but inevitable reality.

Instead, the United States has forged a better, different reality — delivering on the promise of a healthier and more equitable society.

HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?

Community Solutions - The evolution of the movement to end homelessness

Cities and counties work differently.

Communities define success not by how they’re managing homelessness — but by whether they are driving it toward zero. Homelessness is not the job of a single organization or sector; instead, it’s the responsibility of the entire community. Now, everyone who holds a key piece of the solution is at the table to solve it. Decisions are made by and with people who have experienced homelessness themselves. 

Leaders take real accountability for ending homelessness.

Instead of relying on annual street counts, local government leaders publish how many people are experiencing homelessness every single month. This enforces accountability. Community leaders and constituents understand the urgency of the goal of getting to zero homelessness, where their efforts stand, and mobilize to support it. 

Community Solutions - The evolution of the movement to end homelessness

Areas that have historically slowed progress now accelerate change.

Public policies, local governance structures, funding, and technology work in service of ending homelessness. Communities use all available tools to close housing supply gaps quickly.

This future is not an impossible dream.

It is exactly what the MacArthur Foundation had in mind in 2021, when it awarded Community Solutions $100 million over five years to support Built for Zero, a movement of communities working to measurably end homelessness. The goal: accelerate an end to homelessness for at least 75 populations in 50 U.S. communities by 2026.

And in some places, you can already see this future unfolding. In 2021, Bakersfield, California; Fremont County, Colorado; and Crater Region, Virginia, became the latest communities to end homelessness for a population. Built for Zero communities have proved that having a single aim, a unified team, and high-quality data can make the difference. Homelessness is solvable.

Fremont County, Colorado, has achieved functional zero for veteran homelessness. By reaching this milestone, they have created a reality where fewer veterans are experiencing homelessness than can be routinely housed — ensuring veteran homelessness is rare and brief.

These achievements are profoundly inspiring. They are also only the beginning. Communities in Built for Zero are primed to continue proving it is possible, everywhere.

How urgently we act, and how quickly we learn, will determine how far we can go. In that spirit, this annual report sets out the key insights and opportunities that have emerged in the first year of the MacArthur Foundation’s five-year challenge.

The future we described is not an impossible dream. It is a moral imperative, a different set of choices, and a reality within our collective reach. Thank you for helping us build it.

2021 Impact and Learning Report

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