Built for Zero is partnering with states to bridge strategy and support across local and state efforts to accelerate an end to homelessness.
Across homelessness response efforts, the issue of fragmentation creates barriers to shared information, collective action, and access to resources. Coordination across siloed actors at multiple levels of homelessness response — spanning state, cities, and counties — pose a challenge to reducing and ending homelessness.
While many actors touch the problem of homelessness, they often do not share a common aim or definition of success. Working disjointedly can also contribute to a poor line of sight into a constantly changing issue like homelessness. Without this crucial information — like how many people are experiencing homelessness at any given time, and what are their unique needs— leaders have an inability to respond to the dynamic nature of homelessness, or to know if their efforts are driving homelessness toward zero.
Our experience suggests that state-level actors can play powerful roles in aligning efforts towards a measurable end to homelessness. Leaders across state, city, and county efforts can accelerate progress by gathering communities around shared aims; building collective will; and more effectively distributing resources using data insights. Resources leveraged from federal, state, and local jurisdictions, deployed through a collaborative statewide infrastructure, drives reductions on the ground.
Built for Zero includes more than 100 communities working to measurably and equitably end homelessness. State level leaders have joined the movement to scale the methodology statewide, accelerate progress, and clear barriers standing in the way of getting to zero. Built for Zero State Teams do this in five key areas:
- Convene communities around a shared aim and build collective will at the state level. State and local regions commit to a shared definition for ending homelessness, known as functional zero. Community stakeholders are aligned across aims and approaches to policy-making, resource allocation, and improvement measures.
- Embed methodologies into state practices to support getting to — and sustaining — functional zero and quality data. State-wide strategy scales Built for Zero approaches across regions. This movement is supported by staff with expertise in system-level improvement, who coach communities on maintaining and using quality, by-name data. Cross-agency networks that work in specific regions collaborate across sectors to develop population-level performance measures and data dashboards. A key goal of the state model is to build a state partner’s expertise, so that they can successfully sustain and scale progress, after formal engagement with Built for Zero.
- Empower communities to build local, equitable homelessness systems. Teams are guided towards creating equitable systems that advance progress on areas like system decision-making power, lived experience, quality data, and equitable system outcomes. Quality data and collaboration is harnessed to improve strategies, address and eliminate racial inequities in the homeless system, and accelerate the impact of homeless-response services.
- Work collaboratively to clear away barriers in direct response to data-determined needs. State agencies work with communities across city and county regions to clear pathways to equitably reducing homelessness, whether that is related to policy, process, or funding.
- Engage anchor institutions and partners from other sectors. State initiatives incorporate partnerships with institutions that have networks and resources to support communities. Anchor institutions, such as healthcare organizations, can scale collaborations statewide and leverage aggregate influence for deeper impact.
Colorado became the first statewide partner in Built for Zero in 2019. The state team includes representation from public, private, healthcare, BIPOC, veteran, and Continuum-of-Care agencies.
Colorado’s statewide team aims to accelerate progress toward functional zero across the state by supporting nine teams on the ground. In February 2021, with support from the state, Fremont County became the first community in Colorado to reach functional zero for a population.
Statewide strategy aims to respond to barriers that communities face as they work to end homelessness. A key part of driving to functional zero is access to quality data, which illuminates patterns and sets roadmaps for further action.
Colorado has implemented the first state-level, real-time performance dashboard to inform an iterative approach to homelessness reduction methods. By analyzing information through dataset analysis, Colorado teams were able to better coordinate systems of funding distribution and direct resources that more effectively addressed issues on the ground.
The statewide team produced the state’s first flexible “playbook” on ending homelessness. This “playbook” outlines a framework for addressing homelessness in Colorado and a vision for the future. The content presents a series of guiding principles with key goals, collaborative approaches, and a list of proven solutions that communities across Colorado have successfully adopted.
The framework includes cross-cutting approaches, which includes leading with equity, based on a recognition that anti-racist practices must be applied to resolve inequitable outcomes across homelessness response. Not all racial and ethnic groups experience homelessness at the same rate, due to ongoing legacies of injustice.
In June 2020, the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH), started a year-long process to help MaineHousing and the Statewide Homeless Council redesign Maine’s homelessness response system. This resulted in a final report that recommended the creation of nine Homeless Response Service Hubs, each staffed by a Hub Coordinator.
From November 2021 to June of 2022, MaineHousing, the Statewide Homeless Council and Built for Zero worked together to implement this statewide hub model. The participants convened cross-agency teams in each Hub and supporting the hiring of full-time Hub Coordinators. In February 2022, Maine launched a state-level Built for Zero team, with a mission to clear barriers to success that are identified by local Hub teams.
By May 2022, all nine Service Hub Coordinators were hired and onboarded. Hub Coordinators are uniquely responsible for coordinating and tracking Hub-level efforts to achieve reductions in homelessness. This includes:
- Convening and facilitating a cross-agency collaborative team
- Working to achieve quality, real time Hub-level data
- Tracking Hub system performance metrics
- Managing a centralized prioritization and housing referral process (Coordinated Entry)
- Working with Hub team members to identify problems and undertake system improvement projects
The Built for Zero State Strategy Team and the Hubs will work in close coordination, with a robust state-local feedback loop — identifying barriers, resource gaps, and key action steps — to inform and build the path towards functional zero.