Functional Zero

A rigorous standard for ending homelessness

Fourteen U.S. communities have met this standard for ending veteran or chronic homelessness — and many more are on their way.

What is functional zero?

Homelessness is a dynamic problem, so the end state for solving it needs to be dynamic, too. Functional zero is a milestone that indicates a community has measurably ended homelessness for a population — and that they are sustaining that end. Reaching and sustaining functional zero is in service of building a future where homelessness is rare overall, and brief when it occurs.

Before a community can start working toward functional zero, they must first gather quality data on everyone is experiencing homelessness. A by-name list is a comprehensive list of every person in a community experiencing homelessness, updated at least monthly. This data is used by communities to better match housing solutions with individuals, understand the population-level dynamics of homelessness in their community (like inflow and outlow), target systems improvements and changes, and track whether all of these efforts are resulting in population-level reductions in homelessness.

Homelessness is a dynamic problem — people are entering and exiting the system constantly. To address this ever-changing problem, the way we measure the progress toward our goal must be able to change as well


A community has achieved functional zero for veteran homelessness when there are fewer veterans experiencing homelessness than can be routinely housed in a month, with a minimum threshold of 3.

Functional Zero definition (veteran))

> What’s the difference between functional zero and the USICH Federal Criteria and Benchmarks for ending veteran homelessness?

How by-name data helps communities end homelessness.


A community has ended chronic homelessness when the number of people experiencing chronic homelessness is zero, or if not zero, than either 3 or .1% of the total number of individuals reported in the most recent point-in-time count, whichever is greater.

> Chronic homelessness refers to long-lasting or recurring homelessness for a community’s most vulnerable neighbors. It is defined by the federal government as impacting people who live with a documented disability and have experienced verifiable homelessness for at least a year — or repeatedly over three years.

Ending homelessness isn’t just possible — 
it’s already happening.

14 communities have achieved functional zero for at least one population

  1. Gulf Coast region, MS
  2. Arlington County, VA 
  3. Montgomery County, MD
  4. Rockford, Winnebago & Boone Counties, IL
  5. Bergen County, NJ
  6. Abilene, TX
  7. Lake County, IL
  8. Norman, Cleveland County, OK
  9. Chattanooga, TN
  10. Lynchburg Region, VA
  11. Crater Region, VA
  12. Fremont County, CO
  1. Rockford, Winnebago & Boone Counties, IL
  2. Lancaster City & County, PA
  3. Bergen County, NJ
  4. Abilene, TX
  5. Bakersfield, Kern County, CA
  1. Rockford, Winnebago & Boone Counties, IL
  2. Bergen County, NJ
  3. Abilene, TX


Abilene, TX

Ended veteran and chronic homelessness


Chattanooga, TN

Ended veteran homelessness

Lake County

Lake County, IL

Ended veteran homelessness

Norman, Oklahoma

Norman, Cleveland County, OK

Ended veteran homelessness

Arlington VA

Arlington County, VA

Ended veteran homelessness

Crater Region, VA

Ended veteran homelessness

Lancaster PA

Lancaster City & County, PA

Ended chronic homelessness

Fast Company

Rockford, Winnebago & Boone Counties, IL

Ended veteran and chronic homelessness

Bakersfield reached functional zero for chronic homelessness

Bakersfield, Kern County, CA

Ended chronic homelessness

Fremont County, Colorado

Fremont County, CO

Ended veteran homelessness

Lynchburg Region, VA

Ended veteran homelessness

All communities at functional zero will be reviewed annually to ensure they are sustaining this dynamic end state for ending homelessness.

The value of Zero

The Urban Institute studies the impact of reaching functional zero.

Help other communities reach functional zero

You can help more communities reach functional zero.